The World Health Organisation, WHO, revealed that 23 million children have missed out on basic childhood vaccinations globally in 2020, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than the figures recorded in 2019.
The Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who disclosed in a statement released to journalists Wednesday, expressed concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a major backsliding on childhood vaccinations globally.
According to him, about 17 million children were likely not to have received a single vaccine during the year, as most of these set of children either live in communities affected by conflict, in underserved remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.
He said: “Even as countries clamour to get their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, we have gone backwards on other vaccinations, leaving children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases like measles, polio or meningitis.
“Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID- 19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached.”
The Director-General said that it is worrisome even as countries clamour to get their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, they have gone backwards on other vaccinations, thus ” leaving children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases like measles, polio or meningitis”.
Mr Ghebreyesus further expressed fears that multiple diseases outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, adding that it is more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached.
“In all regions, rising numbers of children miss vital first vaccine doses in 2020; millions more miss later vaccines.
“Disruptions in immunization services were widespread in 2020, with the WHO Southeast Asian and Eastern Mediterranean Regions most affected.
“As the access to health services and immunization outreach were curtailed, the number of children not receiving even their very first vaccinations increased in all regions.
“As compared with 2019, 3.5 million more children missed their first dose of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP-1), while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose,” he said.
The UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said that the report should be a clear warning, adding that: “The COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions cost us valuable ground we cannot afford to lose – and the consequences will be paid in the lives and wellbeing of the most vulnerable.”