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University of Nebraska Medical Center

After a historic downturn due to the pandemic, childhood immunizations are improving

NPR

Fewer children around the world missed receiving routine vaccinations in 2022 compared to the year before, indicating a rebound in childhood immunizations following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new statistics released by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Last year, 20.5 million children did not get one or more rounds of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine, which is used as a global marker for immunization coverage, according to a joint statement released Tuesday by WHO and UNICEF. That’s compared to the 24.4 million children who missed out on one ore more rounds of that vaccinate in 2021.

“These data are encouraging, and a tribute to those who have worked so hard to restore life-saving immunization services after two years of sustained decline in immunization coverage,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in the statement. “But global and regional averages don’t tell the whole story and mask severe and persistent inequities. When countries and regions lag, children pay the price.”

The organizations note that the current numbers remain higher than the 18.4 million children who missed out on the DTaP vaccine in 2019.

A previous report released by UNICEF earlier this year found that 67 million children across the world missed out on some or all routine vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, and 48 million didn’t receive any doses over the same period.

The numbers were a reflection of how disruptive the COVID-19 pandemic has been on basic health services, Brian Keeley, editor-in-chief of UNICEF’s annual report, State of the World’s Childrentold NPR this spring.

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