GCovid disruptions caused the greatest drop in childhood vaccine rates for lobal children over three decades. This put more children at greater risk of deadly but preventable illnesses.
The percentage of children who received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) was set back to its lowest level since 2008, falling to 81% in 2021, according to official data published by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund on Friday.
This means that 25 million children will not receive DTP via routine services by 2021, which is two million less than 2020, and six millions more than 2019.
“This is a red alert for child health,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives.”
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The backslide — along with declines in coverage for other basic vaccines — pushed the world off-track to meet global immunization goals. This is due in large part to the global coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted supply chain and diverted resources. It also hindered access during lockdowns and immunization services. Officials also said there was an increased number of children in conflict or fragile environments and more misinformation.
Immunization catch-ups for the “missing millions” of children are urgently needed to avoid more outbreaks, more sick children and greater pressure on already strained health systems, said Russell.
Every region saw a drop in vaccine coverage, but the East Asia-Pacific region experienced the greatest reversal of DTP3 coverage.
Officials’ earlier estimated that 2021 would be a year of recovery for childhood vaccines after the initial Covid shock passed. The sharp decline in vaccines over the next two years has halted progress for almost a decade.
“Planning and tackling Covid-19 should also go hand-in-hand with vaccinating” for other killer diseases, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It’s not a question of either/or, it’s possible to do both.”
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