23 million children missed routine vaccines last year, global report finds

About 23 million children globally —  the highest number since 2009 — missed routine vaccinations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to a joint report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF. 

Of these children, up to 17 million didn't receive a single shot throughout the year, reflecting the global disruptions brought on by the coronavirus. 

Compared to 2019 data, 3.7 million more children overall missed routine shots, according to the July 14 report published in The Lancet. 

The report, which included data from more than 100 countries, found most children who missed routine shots lived in regions affected by conflict, remote and other vulnerable areas, widening existing vaccine access gaps.

India was particularly hard hit by the declines, with more than 3 million children missing their first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine in 2020, compared to 1.4 million in 2019.

“Even as countries clamour to get their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, we have gone backwards on other vaccinations, leaving children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases like measles, polio or meningitis,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached.”

To view the full report, click here.

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