Moscow: Coronavirus-related disruption to health care services in 2020 led to 23 million children worldwide missing out on routine vaccinations for diseases such as measles, diphtheria, and tetanus, a joint study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF found.
“23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunization services in 2020 – 3.7 million more than in 2019,” the two organizations said in a press release.
WHO and UNICEF said that it was likely that 17 million of these children did not receive a single vaccine shot in 2020, warning that this could lead to deepening health inequalities.
“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,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said in the press release.
Routine child vaccination services were most severely affected in Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean, according to the WHO.
Compared to 2019, three million more children missed their first measles shot, and 3.5 million more children failed to receive their first dose of the DTP-1 vaccine, which offers protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
The Immunization Agenda 2030 initiative, which unites the WHO, UNICEF, and the Gavi vaccine alliance, aims to ensure 90% coverage worldwide for key vaccines.