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25 million children did not receive life-saving vaccines in 2021, WHO and UNICEF data show | CNN


Vaccine coverage continued to decline worldwide in 2021, with 25 million children without life-saving vaccines, according to data released Thursday by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

“There has been the largest sustained decline in childhood immunizations in about 30 years,” the organizations said in a statement. Press release.

Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 5-point drop in the percentage of children who received three doses of DTP3, the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This reduced coverage to 81%.

DTP3 coverage is used as a marker for broader immunization coverage, the WHO and UNICEF said.

“As a result, 25 million children missed one or more doses of DTP through routine immunization services in 2021 alone. This is 2 million more than were missed in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, which which highlights the growing number of children at risk of devastating but preventable diseases,” they said. Eighteen million of these children did not receive a single dose of the vaccine, most of whom lived in low- and middle-income countries.

Other decreases were observed in HPV, with which more than a quarter of the coverage achieved in 2019 was lost, and measles, with which first dose coverage fell to 81% in 2021. The WHO points out that this is the lowest level since 2008 and means 24.7 million children missed their first dose in 2021.

All regions experienced a drop in vaccination coverage, with the steepest drop in DTP3 coverage in the East Asia and Pacific region. However, some countries were able to contain the declines, including Uganda and Pakistan.

There were several factors behind the declines, including a higher number of children living in conflict and other fragile settings, increased misinformation and issues related to Covid-19.

“This is a red alert for children’s health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “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 to catch up on immunizing the millions that are missing or we will inevitably see more outbreaks, more sick children and greater pressure on already overburdened health systems.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “planning for and fighting COVID-19 must also go hand in hand with vaccination against deadly diseases such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea. It is not a question of one or the other, it is possible to do both”.

The members of the world Immunization Agenda 2030, an effort to maximize the life-saving impact of vaccines, calling on governments and other groups to help address vaccination backsliding, including stepping up efforts to catch up on vaccination; implement evidence-based, people-centered, and personalized strategies to build trust; and prioritize the strengthening of health information and disease surveillance systems to provide the necessary data and monitoring.

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