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COVID-19 Pandemic Fuelled Biggest ‘Child Health Crisis’: UNICEF and WHO

Rates of children who did not receive any immunisation or “zero-dose” rose by 37% between 2019 and 2021

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UNITED STATES: Around 25 million children worldwide failed to receive routine vaccination shots that protect against life-threatening diseases last year. That amounts to 2 million more children than in 2020 when COVID-19 caused lockdowns globally, and 6 million more than the pre-pandemic in 2019, according to new data figures, as per reports released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

UNICEF described the drop in vaccination coverage as the largest sustained backslide in child vaccination in a generation, lowering coverage rates back to numbers not seen since the early 2000s.

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Coverage dropped in every region according to figures, estimated as per the take-up of the three-dose Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) jab and including both children who have missed out on all three doses or anyone necessary for protection. The global coverage rate fell by 5% to 81% last year.

Rates of children who did not receive any immunisation or “zero-dose” rose by 37% between 2019 and 2021, which raises the numbers from 13 to a staggering 18 million children, mostly in low and middle-income countries, the data showed.

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More than 90% of children need to be vaccinated for many diseases to prevent outbreaks. There have been reports of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent months, like the measles cases in Africa in 2022, reporting a 400% rise.

Many hoped that vaccination coverage would gain ground after the first year of the pandemic, but things only worsened, raising the alarm and doubts over efforts to curb missed immunisation. Unicef’s senior immunisation specialist, Niklas Danielsson said, “I want to get across the urgency. This is a child health crisis.”

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