67 million children missed out on vaccines because of Covid – UNICEF

67 million children partially or fully missed routine vaccines globally between 2019 and 2021 because of lockdowns and health care disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations said Wednesday.

“More than a decade of hard-earned gains in routine childhood immunization have been eroded,” read a new report from the UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, adding that getting back on track “will be challenging.”

Of the 67 million children whose vaccinations were “severely disrupted,” 48 million missed out on routine vaccines entirely, UNICEF said, flagging concerns about potential polio and measles outbreaks.

Vaccine coverage among children declined in 112 countries and the percent of children vaccinated worldwide slipped 5 points to 81 percent — a low not seen since 2008. Africa and South Asia were particularly hard hit.

“Worryingly, the backsliding during the pandemic came at the end of a decade when, in broad terms, growth in childhood immunization had stagnated,” the report said.

Vaccines save 4.4 million lives each year, a number the United Nations figures could jump to 5.8 million by 2030 if its ambitious targets to leave “no one behind” are met.

“Vaccines have played a really important role in allowing more children to live healthy, long lives,” Brian Keeley, the report’s editor in chief, told AFP. “Any decline at all in vaccination rates is worrying.”

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