By Haruna Gimba
Childhood immunisation rates began to recover last year in the world’s poorest countries after being badly hit by COVID-19 disruptions, according to the global vaccine alliance Gavi.
Last year, 80 per cent of children got their diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, known as DTP3, according to early data from Gavi. That compares to 78 per cent in 2020 and 77 per cent in 2021. Before the pandemic hit, coverage rates had reached 82 per cent.
Global health groups have called the pandemic’s impact on routine immunisation for children “the largest backslide in a generation.”
While the new data only covers 57 countries supported by Gavi, which are among the poorest in the world, the alliance said it showed the first signs of recovery after two years of deterioration.
“Millions of children missed out on essential vaccines in the last three years. Catching up these children is a priority this year,” added Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will provide wider estimates of coverage next month.
The DTP vaccine is used as a marker for routine immunisation coverage more broadly, including shots that protect against other killer diseases such as measles.
Gavi released the data on Tuesday as part of a strategic meeting in Madrid assessing its recent progress, at which it also said it had reached more than 1 billion children with vaccinations since its establishment in 2000.
Gavi, which is backed by donor governments and philanthropists like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, works with poorer countries to fund bulk-buy vaccination programmes.