UN says children are missing routine vaccinations due to COVID

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Last year, some 25 million children worldwide did not receive routine vaccinations to protect against life-threatening diseases as the effects of the pandemic continue to disrupt healthcare systems worldwide.

That’s two million more children than in 2020when COVID-19 caused lockdowns around the world, and six million more than before the pandemic in 2019, according to new data released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

UNICEF described the drop in vaccination coverage as the largest sustained decline in child vaccination in a generation, sending coverage rates back to levels not seen since the early 2000s.

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Many hoped that in 2021 the situation would recover somewhat after the first year of the pandemic, but in fact the situation worsened, raising questions about attempts to catch up.

“I want to overcome the emergency,” UNICEF senior immunization specialist Niklas Danielsson told Reuters. “This is a child health crisis.”

The agency said a focus on COVID-19 immunization campaigns in 2021, as well as an economic downturn and pressure on health systems, have hampered a faster recovery. routine vaccinations.

A nurse wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) administers standard vaccines to a child held by his mother at a local health center in Manila, Philippines January 27, 2021.

A nurse wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) administers standard vaccines to a child held by his mother at a local health center in Manila, Philippines January 27, 2021.
(Reuters/Eloise Lopez)

Coverage has declined in every region, as shown by figures estimated using data on three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine, and include both children who were not vaccinated at all and those who missed any vaccination . of the three doses required for protection. Global reach fell 5% to 81% last year.

The data showed that the number of zero-dose children who received no vaccinations increased by 37% between 2019 and 2021, from 13 million to 18 million children, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

To prevent outbreaks of many diseases, more than 90% of children must be vaccinated. In recent months, there have already been reports of a rise in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases, including a 400% rise in measles cases in Africa in 2022.

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“If we don’t catch up on vaccination quickly and urgently, we will inevitably see more outbreaks,” said UNICEF’s Efrem Tekle Lemango, noting that Yemen and Afghanistan have been among countries with large and devastating measles outbreaks in recent months.

In 2021, 24.7 million children missed first dose of measles vaccineThe data showed that another 14.7 million people did not receive the required second dose. Coverage was 81%, the lowest since 2008.

Figures are calculated using data from the national health systems of 177 countries.