Covid-19: Pandemic disrupted routine vaccinations for children, experts warn of future outbreaks, deaths

By: |
July 16, 2021 12:43 PM

The Lancet study estimates that India’s coverage of the first measles vaccine dose was likely to have dipped below 86 per cent, while that for the coverage for the third DTP dose below 75 per cent.

covid 19 vaccine, covid 19 dosesThe new phase of universalisation of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from June 21. (Representational image: IE)

A whopping 30.38 million children are believed to have missed their first vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus in 2020 against 14.03 million children in 2019, according to a new report. This implies an additional 1.6 million Indian are likely to have missed routine vaccinations against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases because of Covid-19, thus raising the possibility of future outbreaks and even deaths, data released by WHO and UNICEF on Thursday show.

According to a similar modelling study published in The Lancet, vaccination against measles (MCV1) and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) (DTP3) faced unparalleled disruption. The study estimates that 2020’s coverage in some regions fell to decade-low levels. Children missed a whopping 8.5 million third dose of the DTP vaccine, and 8.9 million first dose of the measles vaccine worldwide. This is an over 7% relative decline of expected coverage levels.

The Lancet study estimates that India’s coverage of the first measles vaccine dose was likely to have dipped below 86 per cent, while that for the coverage for the third DTP dose below 75 per cent. According to the WHO and UNICEF data, 17 million children are estimated to have not received even one vaccine during 2020, with South Asia being particularly worst hit.

According to the estimates, the pandemic led to twice as many children likely missing the doses in high-income Central and Eastern European countries, Central Asia, and North Africa, and the Middle East. Although vaccination rates showed an uptick in the latter parts of 2020, the efforts are lagging. The study’s authors have warned of a likely resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases unless there was a concerted effort to bring routine immunisation back on track.

Measles, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) are four vaccine-preventable childhood diseases that immunisation programmes target. Measles alone claimed over 207,000 lives in 2019.

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