Pandemic represents ‘biggest setback in childhood vaccination’ in three decades, say WHO and UNICEF


The World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef ​​denounced this Friday that “global vaccination coverage continued to decline in 2021” by verifying that there are “25 million babies who have not received life-saving vaccines” and concluded that the pandemic has meant the greatest setback in three decades.

The percentage of children who received three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine, a key marker of vaccination coverage, decreased by 5 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. “As a result, 25 million children receive one or more doses of DTPs were missed in 2021 alone. This means 2 million more than in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019,” the WHO explained.

For Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, “planning and the fight against covid-19 must also go hand in hand with vaccination against deadly diseases such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea”. “It’s not about choosing one or the other, it’s possible to do both.”

Regarding risk factors, he highlighted the fact that there are a greater number of children living in conflict situations, in addition to the increase in misinformation, problems related to covid or interruptions in services. and the vaccine supply chain.

According to the WHO and Unicef, 2021 was to be a year of recovery in childhood vaccination programs. In contrast, “diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) coverage has fallen to its lowest level since 2008”, which, combined with the decline in coverage of other core vaccines, “makes it very difficult achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This is a red alert for children’s health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood vaccinations for a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives”, insisted Catherine Russell, director general of Unicef.

“Covid-19 is no excuse. We need to catch up on vaccination for the millions (of doses) that are missing or we will inevitably see more epidemics, more sick children and more pressure on health systems already overloaded.” “, he commented.

Additionally, data from both institutions reveals that, for example, more than a quarter of the HPV vaccine coverage that was achieved in 2019 has been lost. first dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is only 15%,” the WHO said.

Finally, Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, called for the resumption of childhood vaccination campaigns: “It is heartbreaking to see more children losing their protection against preventable diseases for the second year consecutive. The Alliance’s priority must be to support countries to maintain, restore and scale up routine vaccination as well as the implementation of ambitious vaccination plans against covid-19.”

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