Pandemic behind ‘largest backslide in childhood vaccination in a generation’ – U.N

LONDON, July 15, Around 25 million children worldwide missed out on routine childhood vaccination that protect against life-threatening diseases last year. The knock-on effects of the pandemic continue to disrupt health care globally.

That is two million more children than in 2020, when COVID-19 caused lockdowns around the world, and six million more than pre-pandemic in 2019, according to new figures released by Unicef and the World Health Organization.

Unicef described the drop in vaccination coverage as the largest sustained backslide in childhood vaccination, taking coverage rates back to levels not seen since the early 2000s.

Many had hoped that 2021 would see some ground recovered after the first year of the pandemic, but the situation worsened, raising questions over catch-up efforts.

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“I want to get across the urgency,” Unicef’s senior immunization specialist, Niklas Danielsson, told Reuters. “This is a child health crisis.”

The agency said that a focus on COVID-19 immunization campaigns in 2021 and the economic slowdown and strain on healthcare systems had stymied a quicker recovery for routine vaccinations.

Coverage dropped in every region; the figures were estimated using data on the take-up of the three-dose Diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) jab and include both children who get no jabs at all and those who miss any of the three doses necessary for protection. Globally, coverage fell by 5 percent to 81 percent last year.

The data showed that the number of “zero-dose” children who did not receive vaccinations rose by 37% between 2019 and 2021, from 13 to 18 million children, mostly in low and middle-income countries.

More than 90% of children need to be vaccinated for many diseases to prevent outbreaks. There have already been reports of rising cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent months, including a 400% rise in measles cases in Africa in 2022. read more

In 2021, the data showed that 24.7 million children missed their first dose of the measles vaccine, and a further 14.7 million did not get the essential second dose. Coverage was 81%, the lowest since 2008.

The numbers are calculated using data from national health systems in 177 countries.

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