The Covid pandemic, guilty of a "historic setback" in childhood vaccination around the world

The Covid pandemic, guilty of a “historic setback” in childhood vaccination around the world

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One of the consequences of the arrival of the Covid that was sensed and is now confirmed. The pandemic has caused ahistorical setback« in childhood vaccination rates around the world, to the point of jeopardizing years of extraordinary achievements. This is confirmed by a publication by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), which has been analyzing the impact of the virus for months.

The Covid has affected the immunization programs from all over the world, as they remember from the center. Its researchers highlight that as a result of the pandemic, millions of children were unable to receive their essential vaccinations and are now more exposed to preventable diseases due to interruptions in services and supply chains, the diversion of resources towards the response to the Covid and containment measures limited access to vaccination services and their availability.

18
millions of children

received no vaccine in 2021, according to WHO data

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently set that 18 million children will not receive any vaccine in 2021, which means the biggest setback in 29 years. In addition, since the outbreak of the pandemic, 23 children under one year of age have not received the basic vaccines, which means that coverage has dropped to 2009 levels. million children missed the third dose of one of the most basic vaccines, DPT (for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and that 27.2 million newborns missed the first dose against measles.

The pandemic had an impact in many areas, recalls the publication. One of the most drastic was when, during the first months of the pandemic, the WHO even recommended interruption of campaigns routine immunization in order to reduce interactions and thus protect health workers and children. “This had a very high cost,” says the author of the study, the researcher Isabelle Munyangaju, who recalls that vaccinations are also usually specific for certain ages in order to achieve permanent immunization.

A few months after the expansion of Covid, studies began to show that the benefit of reactivating vaccination outweighed the risk of dying from Covid, but at that point there was already other effects of the pandemic, such as movement restrictions, confinements or border closures or staff shortages due to reorientation towards Covid or their casualties due to infections, which affected supply chains (including the vaccines themselves) and access to vaccination services and continued to harm the immunization of the smallest.

The examples of different situations detected in several countries corroborate this. In South Africa, for example, the lockdown reduced outpatient visits from 11.8 to 4.5 per day and center. And in Pakistan they fell by more than 50% just the week the lockdown was introduced.

reactivated diseases

This setback translates into consequences for the health of minors. An example of this is that the measles, which had been on the decline since 2019 and whose cases worldwide increased by 79% in the first two months of 2022 alone, an increase that was much more worrying in Africa, since it reached 400%. Something similar is happening with other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as yellow fever (which has been detected again in Kenya after 25 years without cases) or the poliomyelitiswhich has reappeared in Africa after four years free of this disease.

“Before the pandemic, vaccination coverage was already falling at an alarming rate, mainly due to reluctance to vaccinate and the scarcity of resources. Now, the pandemic leaves a tragic gap in terms of immunization, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and this requires urgent action to reverse it”, highlights Munyangaju.

For all these reasons, ISGlobal proposes to work in various areas to reverse this situation. Thus, they advocate, among other aspects, to guarantee that conventional programs suffer the least possible alterations, integrate the new vaccines into the programsreview logistical issues and with supply chains to avoid failures of this type and promote strategies that help reduce vaccine hesitancy.

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