WHO: Childhood vaccinations see largest decline in 3 decades

child receiving an immunization in Afghanistan

In an alarming trend that’s reversed decades of progress and put children’s lives at risk, 25 million children missed one or more doses of routine DTP3 (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) in 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF said Friday.

“This is 2 million more than those who missed out in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases,” said the release.

The new data from the WHO and UNICEF shows that vaccine coverage – including DTP3, HPV, and measles – “dropped in every region” in 2021, a year that saw “the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years.”

On top of the often-challenging immunization access to children living in conflict and fragile settings, the issues such as “service and supply chain disruptions, resource diversion to response efforts, and containment measures” related to COVID-19 have additionally limited immunization service access and availability, explained WHO and UNICEF.

“This is a red alert for child health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned in its report back in June 2021, as we previously reported, about the substantial decline in routine childhood immunization in the first half of 2020, stressing that the “lag in catch-up vaccination might pose a serious public health threat that would result in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.”

CDC data in May, as Good Day Bio reported at the time, showed “vaccinations among U.S. kindergarteners dropped 1% in the 2020-2021 school year.”

Is Immunization Agenda 2030 achievable?

The WHO emphasized in its December 2021 report that unless major catch-up efforts are put in place, “the decline in vaccination coverage seen in 2020 raises serious questions about the achievability” of the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030).

The agenda envisages that “an estimated 51 million future deaths in total will be averted by vaccination between 2021 and 2030 if coverage targets are met.”

At the same time, as we previously wrote, Vaccinate Your Family is working to address hesitancy and other challenges in the U.S., aiming, according to its CEO Amy Pisani, “to exceed the pre-pandemic efforts to finally close the gap of vaccine disparity among every group and throughout the entire nation.”


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