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20 million children missed lifesaving vaccines

Tuesday July 16th, 2019

More than one in ten children worldwide – about 20 million – missed out on lifesaving vaccines in 2018, according to new data from WHO and UNICEF.

Globally, since 2010, vaccination coverage with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) and one dose of the measles vaccine has remained at about 86% – below the 95% coverage required to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-affected states. Almost half are in just 16 countries - Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said: “Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe.

“While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind. Unacceptably, it’s often those who are most at risk – the poorest, the most marginalised, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes – who are persistently missed.”

Disparities in vaccine access across the world have led to measles outbreaks in many parts of the world, including countries that have high overall vaccination rates. In 2018, almost 350,000 measles cases were reported globally, more than that double the cases recorded in 2017.

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said: “Measles is a real time indicator of where we have more work to do to fight preventable diseases.

“Because measles is so contagious, an outbreak points to communities that are missing out on vaccines due to access, costs or, in some places, complacency. We have to exhaust every effort to immunise every child.”

Ukraine tops the list of countries with the highest reported incidence rate of measles in 2018 - although it now vaccinates more than 90% of infants.

Meanwhile, data on human papillomavirus vaccine coverage showed that in 2018, 90 countries had introduced the HPV vaccine into their national programmes. However, only 13 of these are lower-income countries.

Tags: Africa | Asia | Child Health | Flu & Viruses | World Health

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