Childhood vaccination rates fell globally for the first time in 28 years owing to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, as per a report by the Collateral Global community. According to the report, over 80 million children in 68 countries could not avail vaccines that in pre-pandemic times prevented two to three million annual deaths from infectious diseases. Experts from the research organisation worry that this will result in unnecessary disease and death in children, especially those from low-income and developing countries.
According to humanitarian organisation UNICEF, freedom from vaccine-preventable illnesses is a child’s fundamental right. Yet, vaccination rates declined across the world as per the study by authors Carl Heneghan, Tom Jefferson, and Jon Brassey from the University of Oxford. They reviewed 35 completed studies across 22 countries to understand the scope of this phenomenon.
India and other Asian countries
Researchers considered surveys of paediatric healthcare providers in India in two rounds in April-June and September 2020 to understand how coronavirus control measures may have impacted routine vaccination. The data showed a 50 percent or greater drop in vaccination services by 83 percent of respondents in June, followed by 33 percent in September. Among the 424 respondents and 141 respondents of the two surveys, 33.4 percent and 7.8 percent respectively reported near-complete suspension of vaccination services.
In Bangladesh, around 20 percent of child immunisation services were cancelled in April 2020 and 25 percent of services were dismissed in May. The most significant disruption occurred in remote sub-districts such as Hijla, Agailjhara and Mehendiganj. Later between July and October 2020, coverage of vaccines improved with about 99 percent of immunisation sessions held.
In Pakistan, the daily average of total vaccinations administered declined by 53 percent. Provincial electronic immunisation registry data reported about 8,400 children per day missed immunisation during the lockdown phase, with the highest decline seen for BCG immunisation. Penta-3 immunisation that includes the DTP-containing (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis) vaccines also reduced by 5 percent for each week of delay.
In the case of polio vaccination, both Pakistan and Afghanistan showed worrying data. Vaccination campaigns in Pakistan were suspended in April 2020. As many as 40 million children in Pakistan missed their polio vaccinations due to Covid-restrictions.
As for Afghanistan, confirmed polio cases increased from 29 cases in 2019 and 34 cases in 2020. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) database said that as of June 16, 2021 one case of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) has been reported for 2021 and 56 cases were reported in 2020. Further information stated that the country remains affected by WPV1 and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2). In March 2021, 6.6 million children were vaccinated against polio during the National Immunisation Days. There were forty cases of circulating cVDPV2 reported in 2021 and 308 cases in 2020.
Despite all this, other countries like Myanmar and Indonesia are considered the key-risk countries when it comes to immunity against polio. Even China, in an online mid-March 2020 survey stated 75 percent parents delayed scheduled vaccines and 81 percent parents planned to have their children get the influenza vaccine after the epidemic. The survey used proportional quota sampling in Wuhan and Shanghai.
Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic measures caused significant disruption to vaccination services worldwide.
“In future pandemics, and for the remainder of the current one, policymakers must ensure access to vaccination services and provide catchup programs to maintain high levels of immunisation, especially in those most vulnerable to childhood diseases in order to avoid further inequalities,” said the report.
The full report may be viewed below:
Courtesy: Sabrang India