Words by GOLD newsdesk
A staggering 67 million children missed out on one or more vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to health services, according to new data released by UNICEF ahead of World Immunisation Week (24–30 April).
The report, titled ‘The State of the World’s Children 2023: for every child, vaccination’, also detailed that the public perception of the importance of vaccines for children has declined in 52 out of 55 countries studied.
The study found that in most countries, people under 35 and women were more likely to report reduced confidence in childhood vaccines since the 2020 pandemic. This serves as an important alert for the pharmaceutical industry to enhance its educational efforts on the continued need for vaccinations in children.
“At the height of the pandemic, scientists rapidly developed vaccines that saved countless lives. But despite this historic achievement, fear and disinformation about all types of vaccines circulated as widely as the virus itself,” said Catherine Russell, Executive Director, UNICEF. “This data is a worrying warning signal. We cannot allow confidence in routine immunisations to become another victim of the pandemic. Otherwise, the next wave of deaths could be of more children with measles, diphtheria or other preventable diseases.”
Indeed, the threat of vaccine hesitancy is building due to public uncertainty around the response to the pandemic, as well as “growing access to misleading information, declining trust in expertise and political polarisation”, the report suggests.
This trend is prevalent except in China, India and Mexico, the only countries studied where the importance of childhood vaccines improved or maintained the same level of confidence.