"Children receiving vaccinations during The Big Catch-Up global initiative"
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Childhood immunization begins recovery after COVID-19 backslide

Despite the upheavals brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, global immunization efforts have made substantial strides in 2022. New data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF shows that 4 million more children were reached by immunization services in 2022 compared to 2021. However, stark disparities in immunization coverage remain.

In 2022, the number of children missing out on essential vaccines through routine immunization services fell to 20.5 million, a notable improvement from the 24.4 million in 2021. Yet, this figure is still higher than the 18.4 million children who were missed in 2019 before the onset of the pandemic, highlighting the persistent need for robust immunization recovery strategies.

These strategies are especially crucial given the number of ‘zero-dose’ children – those who didn’t receive a single dose of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccine – a widely recognized indicator of immunization coverage. While the figure of zero-dose children fell from 18.1 million in 2021 to 14.3 million in 2022, it still remains higher than the 12.9 million recorded in 2019.

“Global and regional averages don’t tell the whole story and mask severe and persistent inequities,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “When countries and regions lag, children pay the price.”

Progress in the recovery of global immunization has been uneven. Larger, resource-rich countries like India and Indonesia have made significant strides, concealing the slower progress or ongoing decline in most low-income countries, particularly in measles vaccination coverage. In 2022, 21.9 million children missed out on the routine first-year measles vaccination, which is 2.7 million more than in 2019.

Despite these inequities, there are concerted efforts to accelerate immunization recovery globally. Earlier this year, WHO and UNICEF, in conjunction with Gavi, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other IA2030 partners, launched ‘The Big Catch-Up’, a global initiative aimed at catching up children who missed vaccinations during the pandemic, restoring immunization services to pre-pandemic levels, and bolstering these services moving forward.

As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and its aftermath, initiatives like ‘The Big Catch-Up’ provide hope for closing the immunization gap and protecting our future generations from preventable diseases.


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