WHO warns of ‘greatest continuing rollback’ in vaccines

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have sounded the alarm as new data shows global immunization coverage continued to fall in 2021, with 25 million babies missing out on life-saving shots, saying that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the “largest continuous setback” in vaccines in 30 years.

The percentage of children who received three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine, a marker of immunization coverage within and between countries, fell by five points, between 2019 and 2021, to settle at 81%. As a result, these agencies insist that 25 million children missed one or more doses of DTP through routine immunization services in 2021 alone.

This is two million more than in 2020 and six million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk of devastating but preventable diseases.

The factors

This decline was due to many factors, including an increased number of children living in fragile and conflict-affected settings, where access to vaccination is often a challenge, increased misinformation, and Covid-19 related issues such as service and supply chain disruptions, diversion of resources to response and containment efforts, measures that have limited access and availability of immunization services.

“This is a red alert for children’s health. We are seeing the largest continuous decline in childhood immunizations in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

pandemic hangover

“While a pandemic hangover was expected last year, due to Covid-19 disruptions and lockdowns, what we are seeing now is a continued decline. Covid-19 is no excuse. We must catch up with the vaccination of the missing millions or, inevitably, we will see more epidemics, more sick children and greater strain on already overstretched healthcare systems,” adds Catherine Russell.

Globally, more than a quarter of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine coverage achieved in 2019 has been lost, with serious consequences for the health of women and girls, as global HPV coverage first dose of this vaccine is only 15%, even though the first vaccines were licensed over 15 years ago.

“Planning and the fight against Covid-19 must also go hand in hand with vaccination against deadly diseases, such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea”, underlines, for his part, the director general of the SGDDr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who clarifies that “it is not a question of one or the other, it is possible to do both”.

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