23 Million Children Miss Routine Vaccines, UN Warns of ‘Perfect Storm'

Sushmita Singh

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As 23 million children miss basic childhood vaccines United Nations warns of the perfect storm. The pandemic has disrupted access to routine vaccinations, and this has left millions of children worldwide at risk of measles and other deadly diseases.

This is the highest number in more than a decade. Because of this, there is an outbreak of measles, polio and other preventable diseases. Measles is one of the world's most contagious diseases and it can be fatal to children under the age of five.

African and Asian countries with weak health systems can be most affected. Pakistan stands among the top five countries with the largest number of children not vaccinated against measles in 2021, and therefore has the highest toll of measles cases, along with Yemen, Tanzania, India and Nigeria.

"Gaps in vaccination coverage are already having grave, real world consequences," said the World Health Organization's (WHO)chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a virtual briefing in which he also announced a new global immunisation strategy.

The aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of "zero-dose" children by half. This means receiving no inoculations from 20 million to 10 million. According to the WHO Director of Immunisation Kate O.Brien, such measures could avert up to 50 million deaths by 2030.

“In 2021, we have potentially a perfect storm about to happen,” Kate O’Brien, head of the WHO’s vaccines and immunisation department, told reporters.

Countries have made some progress in restoring routine vaccinations as compared to 2020. But over a third of the 135 countries that responded to the WHO survey were still experiencing difficulties.

The WHO survey found that at least 60 mass immunisation campaigns in 50 countries were currently on hold, putting around 228 million people, mostly children, at risk from preventable serious diseases. More than half the affected countries are in Africa.

Immunisation programmes against measles account for 23 of the postponed campaigns, affecting around 140 million people.

23 million children missed out on basic vaccinations last year which is 3.7 million more than in 2019, according to data published by the World Health Organisation and the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF.

This means 3.5 million more children missed their first doses of three-dose diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP) while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose.

Maybe with the efforts of various organizations and immunization programmes, we can still avoid this perfect storm.

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