A new report jointly released by the World Health Organization WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF indicates that no fewer than 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccinations in 2020.
According to the report,majority of countries last year experienced drops in childhood vaccination rates recording about 3.7 million in 2919.
The report further expressed worry that up to 17 million children likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access.
The report also noted that most of the children live in communities affected by conflict, in under-served remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,while reacting to the report noted that the clamour for COVID-19 vaccines has created a huge gap on other vaccinations leaving children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases like measles, polio or meningitis.
“Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached.”
In all regions, rising numbers of children miss vital first vaccine doses in 2020; millions more miss later vaccines
Disruptions in immunization services were widespread in 2020, with the WHO Southeast Asian and Eastern Mediterranean Regions most affected. As access to health services and immunization outreach were curtailed, the number of children not receiving even their very first vaccinations increased in all regions.
The report notes that as compared with 2019, 3.5 million more children missed their first dose of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP-1) while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose.
Also speaking, UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore said: “This evidence should be a clear warning the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions cost us valuable ground we cannot afford to lose and the consequences will be paid in the lives and wellbeing of the most vulnerable.
“Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight to immunize children against preventable child illness, including with the widespread measles outbreaks two years ago. The pandemic has made a bad situation worse. With the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must remember that vaccine distribution has always been inequitable, but it does not have to be.”
The report which shows that India leads in unimmunized children also noted that countries risk resurgence of measles, other vaccine-preventable diseases.