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Large decline in childhood vaccinations means millions of children are missing out on protection 

The number of children receiving childhood vaccinations has been declining for several years, and new data has found that 25 million children missed out on life-saving vaccines in 2021. 

According to the data, from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, “the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years has been recorded.” 

The WHO and UNICEF currently use coverage of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) vaccines to be a marker for immunization coverage in general. 

In the latest release, the two agencies found a 5-point drop in the percentage of children who were up to date with all three doses of the DTP3 vaccine. 

This takes coverage down to roughly 81% globally, with all regions seeing a decline, with the biggest drop being in the East Asia and Pacific region. 

Approximately 18 million children didn’t receive a single dose of the vaccine, mostly in low and middle-income countries. 

The WHO and UNICEF put the declines down to a number of factors, including higher numbers of children living in conflict zones and trust issues from COVID-19 misinformation.

In the news release, the agencies said: “As a result, 25 million children missed out on one or more doses of DTP through routine immunization services in 2021 alone. 

This is 2 million more than those who missed out in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases.

This is a red alert for child health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives. 

While a pandemic hangover was expected last year as a result of COVID-19 disruptions and lockdowns, what we are seeing now is a continued decline. COVID-19 is not an excuse. 

We need immunization catch-ups for the missing millions or we will inevitably witness more outbreaks, more sick children, and greater pressure on already strained health systems.”

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