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UNICEF: 23 million children have not received basic vaccinations due to Corona

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued a report in which it stated that 23 million children did not receive the basic vaccinations that children should receive through routine health services in 2020, the highest number since 2009 and an increase of 3.7 One million cases compared to 2019, due to global service disruptions due to Covid-19, which showed that most countries saw a decrease in child vaccination rates last year.

Dr. said. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization: “Even as countries insist on getting their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, we have rolled back the use of other vaccines, putting children at risk of devastating but preventable diseases such as measles, polio and meningitis. ."

Dr. warned. “Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making investing in childhood vaccinations and ensuring access to every child more urgent than ever,” Tedros said.

According to a statement issued by the two agencies, most children - up to 17 million children - likely did not get any shots of the vaccine during the year, adding to the massive inequality in access to the vaccine.

The statement pointed out that most of these children live in conflict-affected communities, in remote locations with inadequate services or in poor neighborhoods, and face multiple deprivations, including limited access to basic health and basic social services.

"Even before the pandemic, global vaccination rates for children against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio had been stuck for several years at around 86 percent, well below the 95 percent recommended by the World Health Organization to protect against measles," the statement said.

The statement indicated that the number of children who have not yet received their first vaccinations has increased in all regions. Compared to 2019, 3.5 million children missed their first dose of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, while 3 million children missed their first dose of measles.

Disruptions to immunization services were widespread in 2020, with the regions of Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean, among the most affected.

“This evidence should serve as a clear warning that the COVID-19 pandemic and all its associated disruptions are costing us valuable ground that we cannot afford to lose – and the consequences will pay off in the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

The data shows that middle-income countries now account for an increasing proportion of unvaccinated children – that is, children are missing out on at least some doses of the vaccine. India is seeing a dramatic drop in vaccine coverage against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, from 91 per cent to 85 per cent.

“Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were losing strength in the fight to immunize children against preventable childhood diseases, including the outbreak of measles outbreaks two years ago. The pandemic has made the worst of the situation even worse,” added Henrietta Fore. ."

She added that with fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at the forefront of everyone's minds, "we must remember that vaccine distribution has always been unfair, it shouldn't be."

With so many resources and staff diverted to support the COVID-19 response, there has been significant disruption to the delivery of immunization services in many parts of the world. In some countries clinics have been closed or working hours reduced, while many have hesitated to seek health care due to fear of transmission, or faced challenges in accessing services due to closures and transportation disruptions.

For his part, said Dr. Seth Berkeley, Director of the Jaffee Vaccine Alliance, said: "These are alarming numbers indicating that the pandemic is undoing years of progress in routine immunization and exposing millions of children to potentially fatal and preventable diseases."

The agencies cited examples of how the Covid-19 pandemic could disrupt services, for example, vaccines against HPV, which are already available at low rates - and which protect girls from cervical cancer later in life - have been severely affected by school closures. . So far, in vaccine areas, about 1.6 million girls missed out on the vaccine in 2020. Globally, only 13 percent of girls got the HPV vaccine, compared to 15 percent in 2019.

WHO, UNICEF and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance continue to work to support efforts to strengthen immunization systems through service recovery and vaccination campaigns so that countries can safely deliver routine immunization programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to help health workers and community leaders actively communicate with caregivers to explain the importance of vaccinations.

Agencies are also working with countries and partners to achieve the ambitious goals of the Global Immunization Agenda 2030, which aims to achieve coverage of 90 percent of essential childhood vaccines, halve the number of completely unvaccinated children, and increase the receipt of new, life-saving vaccines such as rotavirus or pneumococcal in low and middle income countries.