Covid pandemic leads to reduction in routine child vaccination
The World Health Organization warned that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sharp drop in the number of children vaccinated, making countries more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
According to data from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, at least 23 million children worldwide missed routine injections last year due to the disruption of health services. Data show that vaccination rates have fallen in most countries, with Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean region being the most affected.
In India, more than 3 million children did not receive the first dose of the combined diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccine last year, compared to 1.4 million in 2019.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for more investment in child vaccination and warned that the outbreak of multiple diseases would be “catastrophic” for communities already battling the coronavirus.
He said: “Although countries are clamoring for the Covid-19 vaccine, we are regressing in other vaccinations, putting children at risk of devastating but preventable diseases such as measles, polio or meningitis.”
The healthcare system has been struggling to cope with the influx of Covid patients. The supply chain has been interrupted due to the blockade. Some patients are reluctant to seek medical treatment for fear of being infected by the virus.
Although developed countries with easier access to the Covid vaccine are trying to get their healthcare plans back on track, the epidemic has exacerbated inequalities in healthcare. The two agencies stated that as many as 17 million children may not have been vaccinated this year, most of them in conflict-affected communities, remote areas or informal slum environments.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that even before the pandemic, the world had already shown “worrying signs” and was losing ground in the fight to vaccinate children. In 2018, more than 140,000 people died from the following diseases, most of them under 5 years of age measles With the surge in cases, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine.
WHO estimates that 95% of children worldwide need measles vaccination to prevent such outbreaks-but vaccination rates have stagnated at around 86%.
“The pandemic makes the bad situation worse. With the fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines becoming everyone’s top priority, we must remember that vaccine distribution has always been unfair, but it doesn’t have to be,” she said.
The two agencies stated that vaccination rates may also be affected by misinformation, especially in the Americas. In the United States this week, Tennessee stopped its campaign to persuade young people to get vaccinated after the right-wing campaign against the Covid vaccine.
Seth Berkley, CEO of Vaccine Alliance Gavi, said that the “shocking numbers” indicate that “the progress over the years is disintegrating.”
“This is a wake-up call: we cannot let the legacy of Covid-19 become a resurgence of measles, polio and other killers,” he said.