According to a recent data released by the World Health Organisation(WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF), 23 million children globally missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services in 2020.
This was disclosed in a communiqué made available to journalists today, which showed that the Covid-19 pandemic led to major backsliding on childhood vaccinations, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.
TheFact Nigeria gathered that due to the ferocious nature of the Covid-19 virus, countries were forced to channel funds and health workers to combat the pandemic, hence leaving a void in childhood immunisation programs.
Speaking about the appalling data, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General hinted that:
“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,” he said.
Report from the WHO also had it that, up to 17 million out of the 23million children likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access.
Most of the affected children live in communities already affected by conflict, in under-served remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.
Worried about the devastating effect this will have on the children, Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director warned:
“This evidence should be a clear warning – 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.
“Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight to immunize children against preventable child illness, including with the widespread measles outbreaks two years ago.
“The pandemic has made a bad situation worse. With the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must remember that vaccine distribution has always been inequitable, but it does not have to be,” she lamented.
Similarly, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance reiterated:
“These are alarming numbers, suggesting the pandemic is unravelling years of progress in routine immunization and exposing millions of children to deadly, preventable diseases.
“This is a wake-up call – we cannot allow a legacy of COVID-19 to be the resurgence of measles, polio and other killers. We all need to work together to help countries both defeat COVID-19, by ensuring global, equitable access to vaccines, and get routine immunization programmes back on track.
“The future health and wellbeing of millions of children and their communities across the globe depends on it,” he said.
UNICEF, WHO and partners like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance have pledged to work with countries and partners to deliver the ambitious targets of the global Immunization Agenda 2030, which aims to achieve 90% coverage for essential childhood vaccines and increase the uptake of newer lifesaving vaccines such as rotavirus or pneumococcus in low and middle-income countries.