Between 2019 and 2021, there was a decrease of 5 points in the percentage of children who received three doses of DTP3, the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. This brought the coverage down to 81%.
DTP3 coverage is used as a marker for broader immunization coverage, WHO and UNICEF said.
“As a result, 25 million children missed one or more doses of DTP through routine immunization services in 2021. This is 2 million more than those missed in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, underscoring the growing number of children at risk for devastating but preventable diseases, “they said. Eighteen million of these children did not receive a single dose of the vaccine, the majority of whom lived in low- and middle-income countries.
Other decreases were seen in HPV, where over a quarter of the coverage achieved in 2019 was lost, and measles, where the coverage of the first dose decreased to 81% in 2021. WHO notes that this is the lowest level since 2008 and means 24 , 7 million children missed their first dose in 2021.
All regions experienced a decline in vaccine coverage, with the sharpest decline in DTP3 coverage in East Asia and the Pacific region. However, some countries were able to hold back declines, including Uganda and Pakistan.
There were several factors behind the decline, including increased numbers of children living in conflicts and other fragile environments, increased misinformation, and Covid-19-related problems.
“This is a red warning for children’s health. We are witnessing the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccination in a generation. The consequences will be measured in life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “While a pandemic hangover was expected last year as a result of COVID-19 disruptions and shutdowns, what we are seeing now is a continued decline. COVID-19 is not an excuse. We need immunization to catch the missing millions,” or we will inevitably witness more outbreaks, more sick children and more pressure on already burdened health systems. “
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “Planning and management of COVID-19 should also go hand in hand with vaccination against killer diseases such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhea. It is not a question of either / or, it is possible to do both . “