Despite immunisation being one of the most successful and cost-effective means to help children grow into healthy adults, worldwide 12.9 million infants — nearly 1 in 10 — did not receive any vaccination in 2016.
The figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the ongoing immunisation week added that this means infants missed the first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine putting them at serious risk of these potentially fatal diseases.
What is worrying, says WHO, is the fact that “global vaccination coverage remains at 85%, with no significant changes during the past few years. An additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improves.”
Over the years, the positive trend “has been the increasing uptake of new and underused vaccines”. In fact, according to WHO in 2017, the number of children immunised – 116.2 million – was the highest-ever reported. Since 2010, 113 countries have introduced new vaccines, and more than 20 million additional children have been vaccinated.
“But despite gains, all of the targets for disease elimination — including measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus — are behind schedule, and over the last two years, the world has seen multiple outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and various other vaccine-preventable diseases. Most of the children missing out are those living in the poorest, marginalised and conflict-affected communities,” it warned.
Immunisation prevents illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases including cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus.
An estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, UNICEF said.