Around 25 million children worldwide have missed routine vaccinations against common diseases such as diphtheria, mainly becauseInterrupted routine health services or misinformed vaccines, according to the United Nations
In a new report published Friday, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said their figures show that last year 25 million children failed to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, a marker for childhood vaccination coverage, Which continues the downward trend that started in 2019.
“This is a red alert for child health,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“We are seeing the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in a generation,” he said, adding that the result would be measured in lives lost.
The data showed that the majority of children who failed vaccination were living in developing countries, such as Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines. While vaccine coverage fell in every region of the world, the worst effects were seen in East Asia and the Pacific.
Experts said this “historic backsliding” in vaccination coverage was particularly troubling because it was happening as rates of severe malnutrition were rising. Malnourished children usually have weak immune systems and infections such as measles can often prove fatal for them.
“The hunger crisis, coupled with the growing vaccination gap, threatens to create an existential crisis for children,” the United Nations said.
Scientists said that outbreaks of diseases such as measles and polio could already be prevented due to low vaccine coverage rates. In March 2020, WHO and partners asked countries to suspend their polio eradication efforts amid the rapidly growing COVID-19 pandemic. Since then there have been dozens of polio epidemics in more than 30 countries.
Helen Bedford, Professor of Children’s Health at University College London, said: “This is particularly sad because in the two decades before the COVID pandemic, tremendous progress had been made to improve childhood immunization rates globally, which the United Nations’ was not attached to the report.” She said the news was shocking but not surprising, given that vaccination services are often the “early accident” of major social or economic disasters.
Dr David Elliman, a pediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in Britain, said it was important to reverse the declining trend of immunization among children.
“Whatever happens in one part of the world can have an impact on the whole world,” he said in a statement., “Whether we act on the basis of morality or ‘enlightened selfishness’, we must put (children) at the top of our list of priorities.”