The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the most significant decline in childhood vaccinations in some 30 years, according to official data published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF on Friday.
The UN agencies warned that global vaccination coverage continued to decline in 2021, with 25 million infants missing lifesaving vaccines.
“Planning and tackling COVID-19 should also go hand-in-hand with vaccinating for killer diseases like measles, pneumonia and diarrhea. It’s possible to do both,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The percentage of children who received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3), fell 5 percentage points between 2019 and 2021 to 81%, read a statement.
The decline was due to many factors, including an increased number of children living in conflict and fragile settings.
Two million more children missed out in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from preventable diseases.
Misinformation also increased, along with COVID-related issues such as service and supply chain disruptions, resource diversion to response efforts, and measures that limited immunization service access and availability.
The UN said 18 million of the 25 million children who did not receive a single dose of DTP last year lived in low- and middle-income countries, with India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Philippines recording the highest numbers.
Myanmar and Mozambique are among the countries with the most significant relative increases in the number of children who did not receive a single vaccine between 2019 and 2021, the data showed.