A new report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that twenty-five million children were not given one or more “lifesaving vaccines” in 2021.
“The largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years has been recorded,” the organizations stated in a release.
“This is 2 million more than those who missed out in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases,” the report added.
The diseases include tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, measles, rubella, rotavirus, pneumonia, yellow fever, and human papillomavirus (HPV).
As reported by CNN, between 2019 and 2021, there was a five-point drop in the percentage of children who were inoculated with three doses of DTP3, the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This brought the overall coverage down to 81 percent.
Furthermore, eighteen of the twenty-five million children did not receive a single dose of DTP during the year, with the vast majority of them living in low- and middle-income countries. India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines registered the highest numbers.
Other sizable decreases in vaccination rates were seen with HPV and measles.
“This is a red alert for child health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a release.
“While a pandemic hangover was expected last year as a result of COVID-19 disruptions and lockdowns, what we are seeing now is a continued decline. COVID-19 is not an excuse. We need immunization catch-ups for the missing millions or we will inevitably witness more outbreaks, more sick children and greater pressure on already strained health systems,” she continued.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that “planning and tackling COVID-19 should also go hand-in-hand with vaccinating for killer diseases like measles, pneumonia and diarrhea. It's not a question of either/or, it's possible to do both.”
WHO and UNICEF are currently working with Gavi and other global partners to make headway in their Immunization Agenda 2030, a strategy that aims to deliver more vaccines worldwide and achieve set goals on preventing diseases through immunization.
“It’s heart-breaking to see more children losing out on protection from preventable diseases for a second year in a row,” Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said in a statement. “The priority of the Alliance must be to help countries to maintain, restore and strengthen routine immunization alongside executing ambitious COVID-19 vaccination plans, not just through vaccines but also tailored structural support for the health systems that will administer them,” Barkley continued.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, the Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.