In 2022, 20.5 million children missed one or more routine childhood immunizations, compared to 24.4 million in 2021. Despite progress, the figures are higher than in 2019, when 18.4 million youngsters remained unprotected. The figures are based on data from 183 countries and include children who had no immunizations at all as well as those who missed any of the required doses of the three-dose diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine.
Pre-pandemic coverage rates were 86% globally, and 84% in 2022. The numbers were “encouraging,” according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, but there were fears that the most vulnerable were being left behind. “When countries and regions lag, children pay the price,” he explained.
34 of the 73 nations that had significant losses in regular coverage during the pandemic, from Angola to Syria, have seen little recovery or have even gotten worse since. According to the WHO and UNICEF, fifteen people have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and another 24 are on their way.
No Significant Improvement in Measles Vaccination Rate
The organizations also warned that measles vaccination rates have not returned as rapidly, with 21.9 million children missing their first shot in 2022 – 2.7 million more than in 2019 – and 13.3 million missing their second. According to Kate O’Brien, WHO’s chief of immunization, coverage rates for measles in low-income countries continued to fall last year, falling to 66% from 67% in 2021. Outbreaks of measles are already on the rise.
“When children aren’t vaccinated, that means they’re not immune to life-threatening diseases,” O’Brien told Reuters in an interview. “Children will perish.
HPV Vaccination Rates Return to Pre-Pandemic Level
Only HPV vaccination rates, which prevent cervical cancer, have returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, they are still falling short of the 90% target, with 67% in high-income nations and 55% in low and middle-income countries where the injection has been implemented.
The WHO and UNICEF, in collaboration with Gavi, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other partners, began a campaign earlier this year to help nations catch up on childhood vaccination.
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