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Public confidence in childhood vaccines has dropped by as much as 44 percentage points in some countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, new data shows

New UNICEF report shows that 67 million children miss out on a service over three years as health systems are under pressure, resources are diverted, conflict and fragility and confidence drop. or multiple vaccinations.

By alyssa marie naylorPublished 8 months ago 6 min read
Eleven-year-old Amani Nasr gets vaccinated with the support of grassroots outreach services in Yemen, June 2022.

NEW YORK, 20 April 2023 - Public immunization of children occurs in 52 of 55 countries studied, UNICEF warns in a new report on immunization released today Awareness of importance has declined during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The report, The State of the World's Children 2023: Vaccinating Every Child, reveals how important it is for the public in South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Senegal and Japan to vaccinate their children since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sexual awareness fell by more than a third. New data collected by The Vaccine Confidence Project and released today by UNICEF shows public awareness of the importance of vaccines in only China, India and Mexico among the countries studied remained the same or even improved. In most countries, people under the age of 35, as well as women, were more likely to have reduced confidence in childhood vaccinations after the outbreak. *

Given the fluctuating and time-sensitive nature of public confidence in vaccines, more data collection and further analysis are needed to determine whether these findings represent a long-term trend. Although confidence in vaccines has declined, overall public support for vaccines remains relatively strong. In nearly half of the 55 countries studied, more than 80% of respondents believed vaccines were important for children.

However, the report warns that hesitation to vaccination may be increasing due to a combination of factors. These factors include uncertainty about the response to the outbreak, increasing public access to misleading information, declining trust in expertise, and political polarization.

"During the height of the pandemic, scientists quickly developed a vaccine that saved countless lives. But despite this historic achievement, fear and disinformation about vaccines of all kinds has nothing to do with the virus itself. are widely disseminated.” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said, “This worrying data is a wake-up call for us. Another casualty of this pandemic. Otherwise, the next wave of deaths could be more children with measles, diphtheria or other preventable diseases."

Worryingly, the decline in public confidence in vaccines comes amid the largest sustained setback in childhood immunization progress in 30 years, a trend fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has taken a toll on childhood vaccinations in virtually every part of the world as the pandemic puts health systems under strain, immunization resources are diverted to COVID-19 vaccinations, health worker shortages and outbreak restrictions that keep people at home. interfered.

The report, released today, warns that between 2019 and 2021, a total of 67 million children have missed out on vaccinations, with vaccination coverage declining in 112 countries. Children born just before and during the COVID-19 outbreak are gradually missing the age at which routine vaccinations should be given, underscoring the urgency of action to help those who miss out catch up and prevent Outbreaks of deadly diseases. For example, in 2022, the number of measles cases will more than double the previous year's total. In 2022, the number of children paralyzed by polio will increase by 16% year-on-year. An eightfold increase in the number of children paralyzed by polio between 2019 and 2021 compared with the previous three years underscores the urgency to ensure that vaccination efforts continue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated existing inequities. Vaccination remains out of reach, unavailable or unaffordable for far too many children, especially those living in the most marginalized communities. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, progress in the field of vaccinations had stalled for almost a decade, leaving the world struggling to reach the most marginalized children.

Of the 67 million children who missed routine vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, 48 million did not receive any of them, a situation also known as "zero vaccination." By the end of 2021, India and Nigeria (both countries with very large birth numbers) will have the largest numbers of unvaccinated children; in Myanmar and the Philippines, the number of unvaccinated children will increase particularly significantly.

Most of the children who miss out on vaccinations live in the poorest, most remote and marginalized communities, which are at times affected by conflict. New data provided for this report by the International Center for Equity in Health shows that one in five children in the poorest households is unimmunized, compared with just one in the wealthiest households. one-twentieth. Data show that unvaccinated children often live in hard-to-reach communities, such as rural areas or urban slums. Their mothers were often not educated and had little say in family decisions. These challenges are most acute in low- and middle-income countries, where about one in 10 children in urban areas are unvaccinated, compared with one in six in rural areas. In upper-middle-income countries, however, there is little disparity between urban and rural children.

To get every child vaccinated, it is critical to strengthen primary health care and provide frontline workers, who are mostly women, with the resources and support they need. The report notes that women are on the frontlines of vaccination efforts, but they face low wages, informal employment, lack of formal training and career opportunities, and security threats.

To address this child survival crisis, UNICEF is calling on governments to step up their commitment to increase funding for immunization and to work with stakeholders to tap available resources, including remaining COVID-19 efforts Funds to urgently implement and accelerate efforts to make up the vaccination schedule to protect children and prevent disease outbreaks.

The report urges governments to:

Urgently identify and reach all children, especially those who have missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic;

Increase demand for vaccines, including by helping the public build confidence in them;

Prioritize funding for immunization services and primary health care;

Invest in supporting female health workers, innovation and indigenous manufacturing to build resilient health systems.

“Immunization has saved countless lives and saved communities from the threat of deadly disease outbreaks,” said Catherine Russell. “We all know all too well that diseases know no borders. Routine immunization and strong health systems are key Our best means of preventing future pandemic outbreaks and avoiding unnecessary death and suffering. As resources for COVID-19 vaccination campaigns remain available, now is the time to redirect those funds to strengthen immunization services and invest in building A sustainable system to protect every child."


Editor's note:

The State of the World's Children is UNICEF's flagship report. The 2023 edition is the first of the report to focus exclusively on routine immunization. UNICEF provides life-saving vaccines to almost half of the world's children every year.

After 00:01 GMT on April 20 (08:01 Beijing time on April 20), you can participate in the interaction (in English) on the UNICEF global website and click here to download the report.

To download the executive summary of the report in Chinese, please click here.

For a multimedia resource including the latest photos, bloopers, case studies and more, click here.

*The Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has been monitoring vaccine confidence since 2015 by analyzing data from nationally representative country surveys. The data in this report come from a large-scale retrospective study of changes in vaccine confidence from 2015 to November 2019 and since 2021. The data in this report are taken from datasets collected by the VCP. You can browse the full dataset with this interactive map tool.

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