Global immunization services will reach four million more children in 2022, compared to last year as countries increase efforts aimed at preventing historic immunization retreats caused by the COVID pandemic -19.
Millions were lost
Data published by UN agencies on Monday revealed that, in 2022, 20.5 million children failed to receive one or more diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccines, compared to 24.4 million children in 2021. DTP vaccinations are often used as a global indicator of vaccination coverage.
Despite the progress, this number is more than the 18.4 million children who failed to receive one or more vaccines in 2019, before the pandemic-related disruptions to routine services began. vaccination.
“These data are encouraging, and a tribute to those who have worked so hard to restore life-saving vaccination services after two years of continuous declines in vaccination coverage,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“But global and regional averages don’t tell the whole story and mask severe and persistent inequities. If countries and regions lag, children will pay the price.”
The first stages of recovery in vaccination rates did not happen uniformly. Growth in well-resourced countries with large child populations, such as India and Indonesia, masks a slower rate of recovery, or even continued decline, in middle- and low-income countries. countries.
Of the 73 countries that recorded significant declines in coverage, 15 have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, 24 are on the road to recovery and, notably, 34 have stagnated or continued to decline, the agencies said. .
Measles shots followed
Vaccination against measles, one of the most contagious pathogens, has not been cured as well as other vaccines.
Last year, 21.9 million children – 2.7 million more than in 2019 – did not attend the routine measles vaccination in their first year of life, while a further 13.3 million did not receive their second dose. This puts children in unvaccinated communities at high risk of outbreaks.
The data show that countries with sustainable immunization coverage in the years before the pandemic were better able to strengthen services.
South Asia, which reported a gradual increase in coverage in the decade before the pandemic, showed a more rapid and stable recovery than regions that suffered a decline, such as Latin America and Caribbean.
The African region, lagging behind in its recovery, faces an additional challenge caused by population growth. As the population increases, countries need to scale up immunization services to maintain adequate levels of coverage.
Reversal of fashion
With support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, DTP3 vaccine coverage in 57 low-income countries increased from 78 percent in 2021 to 81 percent in 2022, with the number of zero-doses children fell to two million in the same period.
The increase in DTP3 coverage in Gavi-implementing countries is mainly concentrated in lower middle-income countries, however, with many low-income countries yet to increase coverage.
“It is incredibly reassuring, after the huge disruption caused by the pandemic, to see routine vaccination making such a strong recovery in Gavi-supported countries, especially in terms of reducing the number of zero-dose children,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“However, it is also clear from this important study that we need to find ways to help each country protect their people, otherwise we run the risk of two paths emerging, with a greater, lower-middle-income countries outperforming others.”
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, HPV vaccination coverage has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. HPV vaccination programs that started before the pandemic reached the same number of girls in 2022 as in 2019.
Many stakeholders are working to improve routine immunization services in the regions. In 2023, WHO and UNICEF, together with Gavi, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other IA2030 partners launched “The Big Catch-Up,” a global communication and advocacy push calling on governments to reach children who are unable to participate due to COVID-19.
The movement aims to secure financing for immunizations, create new policies to help children born during or before the pandemic, strengthen routine services especially for marginalized children , and building trust and acceptance of the vaccine.
“Beneath the positive trend lies a dire warning,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“Until many countries close the gaps in routine immunization coverage, children everywhere will remain at risk of contracting and dying from diseases we can prevent. Viruses like measles do not recognize efforts must be urgently strengthened to catch unvaccinated children, while restoring and improving immunization services from pre-pandemic levels.