One in 10 babies received no vaccinations in 2016 – UN agencies

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UNITED NATIONS, July 18 (APP): Nearly one in 10 infants worldwide, or
12.9 million, received no vaccinations in 2016, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have said, urging greater efforts to extend the reach of health services.
Those infants missed the critical first dose of the triple vaccination
against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, known as the DTP3 vaccination. An additional 6.6 million infants who received the first dose didn’t receive the other two doses in the three-dose series last year.
“Every contact with the health system must be seen as an opportunity
to immunize,” WHO’s Director of Immunization, Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, stressed, noting that most of those who remained un-immunized were also the same as the ones missed by health systems. “These children most likely have also not received any of the other basic health services. If we are to raise the bar on global immunization coverage, health services must reach the unreached,” he added.
Since 2010, the percentage of children who received their full course of
routine immunizations has stalled at 86 per cent (116.5 million infants), according to the two UN agencies.
Of the estimated 10 million children, in 64 countries out of 194 WHO
member States which have not achieved this target, 7.3 million live in fragile situations or in humanitarian emergencies, including countries affected by conflict. Four million of them also live in just three countries “Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria”, where access to routine immunization services is critical to achieving and sustaining eradication of diseases such as polio.
Similarly, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria,
Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine recorded less than 50 per cent coverage for DTP3, last year.
In the battle against measles, 85 per cent of children globally received
the first dose by their first birthday but only 64 per cent received the second dose.
Additionally, concerted effort is required in the progress against
rubella (which can cause hearing impairment, congenital heart defects and blindness and other life-long disabilities), which has seen global coverage increase from 35 per cent in 2010 to 47 per cent last year.
Furthermore, global coverage of more recently-recommended vaccines are yet to reach half the world’s children. These include vaccines against major killers of children such as rotavirus, a disease that causes severe childhood diarrhoea, and pneumonia. Vaccination against both these diseases has the potential to substantially reduce deaths of children under five years of age, a key target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to WHO-UNICEF data, many middle-income countries still lag
behind in the introduction of newer and more expensive vaccines and disparities persist within countries, implying the need for more work to reduce inequalities related to household economic status, mother’s education as well as those living in rural and urban areas in many countries.
Stressing the importance of immunization as one of the most
“pro-equity” interventions currently available, Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunizations at UNICEF, stated: “Bringing life-saving vaccines to the poorest communities, women and children must be considered a top priority in all contexts.”
Immunization currently prevents between 2-3 million deaths every year,
from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles. It is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.