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UNICEF reports that a staggering 20.5 million children remain unvaccinated

Last updated on October 21st, 2023 at 01:41 am

“In the wake of the pandemic’s significant disruptions, the resurgence of routine immunization in Gavi-supported nations, particularly in terms of reducing the number of unvaccinated children, is a profoundly reassuring development,” remarked Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Yet, this pivotal study also underscores the imperative of aiding every nation in safeguarding their populations, lest we risk the emergence of a two-tiered scenario, with larger, lower-middle-income countries outpacing the rest.”

Despite the profound impact of the Covid-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022, Nigeria’s immunization program has demonstrated commendable efforts to enhance childhood immunization coverage while concurrently addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The 2022 WHO and UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage, WUENIC, and administrative data highlight a marked improvement in Penta3 coverage, reaching 62% and 85%, respectively. The ongoing recovery of childhood immunization coverage in Nigeria is being pursued through a comprehensive catch-up initiative in alignment with the global immunization catch-up strategy, targeting 2.2 million unvaccinated children.

For the first time, HPV vaccination coverage has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Programs initiated before the pandemic reached the same number of girls in 2022 as in 2019. However, coverage in 2019 fell well short of the 90% target, and this trend persists in 2022, with average coverage in HPV programs reaching 67% in high-income countries and 55% in low- and middle-income countries. The recently launched HPV revitalization, spearheaded by the Gavi Alliance, seeks to fortify existing program delivery and facilitate further introductions.

Numerous stakeholders are collaborating to accelerate recovery efforts across all regions and vaccine platforms. Earlier in 2023, WHO and UNICEF, in conjunction with Gavi, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other IA2030 partners, launched ‘The Big Catch-Up,’ a global initiative in communication and advocacy, urging governments to address the children who missed vaccinations during the pandemic. The initiative calls for a return of immunization services to pre-pandemic levels and their subsequent reinforcement through the following means:

  1. A redoubling of commitments to increase funding for immunization and collaboration with stakeholders to mobilize available resources, including COVID-19 funds, to promptly reinstate disrupted and stretched services and implement catch-up endeavors.
  2. The development of new policies enabling immunizers to reach children born just before or during the pandemic who are now surpassing the age at which they would typically receive routine immunizations.
  3. The fortification of immunization and primary healthcare services, encompassing community health systems, and the resolution of systemic immunization challenges to rectify prolonged stagnation in vaccination rates and reach the most marginalized children.
  4. The establishment and sustenance of vaccine confidence and acceptance through active engagement with communities and healthcare providers.

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