Global immunisation rates show sign of post-pandemic rebound: WHO and UNICEF

GENEVA. KAZINFORM Efforts to vaccinate children worldwide against deadly diseases such as measles and diptheria began to recover in 2022 after a historic backslide caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Global immunisation services reached four million more children in 2022, compared with the previous year as countries increase efforts meant to combat the historic backsliding in immunisation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, WAM reports.

Data published by the UN agencies on Monday revealed that, in 2022, 20.5 million children failed to receive one or more diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccines, compared to 24.4 million children in 2021. DTP vaccinations are commonly used as the global indicator of immunisation coverage.

Despite the improvement, this figure is still more than the 18.4 million children who failed to receive one or more vaccines in 2019, before pandemic-related disruptions to routine immunisation services kicked in.

«These data are encouraging, and a tribute to those who have worked so hard to restore life-saving immunisation services after two years of sustained decline in immunisation coverage,» said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

He added, «When countries and regions lag, children pay the price.»

Of the 73 countries that recorded substantial declines in coverage, 15 have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, 24 are on the road to recovery and, most concerningly, 34 have stagnated or continued to decline, said the agencies.

Vaccination against measles, one of the most infectious of pathogens, has not recovered as well as other vaccines.

Last year, 21.9 million children – 2.7 million more than in 2019 – missed the routine measles vaccination in their first year of life, while an additional 13.3 million did not receive their second dose. This has placed children in under-vaccinated communities at heightened risk of outbreaks.

With support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, DTP3 vaccine coverage in the 57 lower-income countries increased from 78 percent in 2021 to 81 percent in 2022, with the number of zero-dose children dropping by two million in the same period.

The increase in DTP3 coverage in Gavi-implementing countries was primarily concentrated in lower middle-income countries, however, with many low-income countries not yet increasing coverage.

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, HPV vaccination coverage has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. HPV vaccination programmes that began pre-pandemic reached the same number of girls in 2022 as in 2019.

Many stakeholders are working to improve routine immunisation services across regions. In 2023, WHO and UNICEF, along with Gavi, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other IA2030 partners launched «The Big Catch-Up,» a global communications and advocacy push calling on governments to reach children who missed out due to COVID-19.

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