Figures for 2020 show a decrease in vaccines administered mainly in Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. For the World Health Organization, the current health crisis is exposing children to “terrible diseases” that can be easily prevented, such as measles, polio or meningitis.
If there were still doubts that the covid-19 pandemic hit the most disadvantaged countries with special force, thus aggravating inequalities the existing ones, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have just dispelled them with a new report on childhood immunization in 2020.
According to the document, in the year the pandemic transformed the world as we knew it, around 23 million children remained unvaccinated. This is an increase of 3.7 million compared to 2019 and the biggest drop in global vaccination programs since 1970.
The two bodies estimate that of the 23 million children, 17 million have found themselves prevented from taking any vaccine during 2020. Compared to the previous year, more than 3.5 million children have missed the first dose of the tripe vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP-1), while three million more have missed the first dose of measles vaccine.
According to the report, the worst affected children live in conflict zones, in peripheral areas with few essential services, or in informal housing or slums.
The flagellum is larger in the region of the Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. In terms of countries, India, Pakistan and Indonesia stand out in the negative, as they are the countries where the number of children who have not yet received the first dose of the DTP-1 vaccine increased the most. The situation is especially serious in India, where that number has more than doubled to more than three million children by 2020.
On the African continent, Mozambique is the one who stands out, since in 2020 around 186,000 children were not vaccinated with the first dose of DTP-1 – in 2019 there were 97 thousand. One place down the table (fifth in the world ranking) is Angola, which went from 399,000 children without DTP-1 vaccination in 2019 to 482 in 2020.
In order to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, “at a time when countries are demanding vaccines against acovid-19, we have backed off in other immunizations, leaving children at risk of terrible but preventable diseases such as measles, polio or meningitis.”
“You multiple disease outbreaks can be catastrophic for communities and health systems that are already fighting covid-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure that all children are reached”, he said, quoted by Public.
On a provisional balance, it is already possible to state that middle-income countries currently live with a growth trend with regard to unimmunized children. India, for example, is struggling with a drop from 91 percent to 85 percent in vaccine coverage against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.
In the American continent, coverage also decreased from 91% to 82% – with numbers from 2016, despite the main justification for the numbers, in this geographic context, being the disinformation, a political instability and as funding shortcomings, advance the World Health Organization and UNICEF.