Despite progress, millions of children still miss out on life-saving immunization
New York/Addis Ababa, 28 April 2017 – UNICEF procured 2.5 billion doses of vaccines to children in nearly 100 countries in 2016, reaching almost half of the world’s children under the age of five. The figures, released during World Immunization Week, make UNICEF the largest buyer of vaccines for children in the world.
Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the three remaining polio-endemic countries, each received more doses of vaccines than any other country, with almost 450 million doses of vaccines procured to children in Nigeria, 395 million in Pakistan and over 150 million in Afghanistan. UNICEF is the lead procurement agency for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Access to immunization has led to a dramatic decrease in deaths of children under five from vaccine-preventable diseases, and has brought the world closer to eradicating polio. Between 2000 and 2015, under five deaths due to measles declined by 85 per cent and those due to neonatal tetanus by 83 per cent. A proportion of the 47 per cent reduction in pneumonia deaths and 57 per cent reduction in diarrhea deaths in this time is also attributed to vaccines.
Yet an estimated 19.4 million children around the world still miss out on full vaccinations every year. Around two thirds of all unvaccinated children live in conflict-affected countries. Weak health systems, poverty and social inequities also mean that 1 in 5 children under five is still not reached with life-saving vaccines.
“All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, have the right to survive and thrive, safe from deadly diseases,” said Dr. Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunization at UNICEF. “Since 1990, immunization has been a major reason for the substantial drop in child mortality, but despite this progress, 1.5 million children still die from vaccine preventable diseases every year.”
Inequalities persist between rich and poor children. In countries where 80 per cent of the world’s under-five child deaths occur, over half of the poorest children are not fully vaccinated. Globally, the poorest children are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five as the richest.
“In addition to children living in rural communities where access to services is limited, more and more children living in overcrowded cities and slum dwellings are also missing out on vital vaccinations,” said Nandy. “Overcrowding, poverty, poor hygiene and sanitation as well as inadequate nutrition and health care increase the risk of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and measles in these communities; diseases that are easily preventable with vaccines.”
By 2030, an estimated 1 in 4 people will live in urban poor communities, mainly in Africa and Asia, meaning the focus and investment of immunization services must be tailored to the specific needs of these communities and children, UNICEF said.
In Ethiopia, immunization coverage has been increasing gradually since the introduction of the Government’s national immunization programme in 1980; however, the proportion of immunized children gradually increased from 24 per cent in 2011 to 38.5 per cent in 2016 which still requires additional efforts to achieve universal coverage (Source: Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) 2011 and 2016).
The coverage of immunization is an important indicator for monitoring progress on the under-five mortality rate. According to the 2016 EDHS findings, approximately 38.5 per cent of children between 12 and 23 months received all basic vaccination. There are regional variations in children being fully vaccinated: 64.6 per cent of urban children are fully vaccinated, compared to 35.2per cent in rural areas. Firstborn children are more likely to be fully vaccinated. In addition, 26.4 per cent of children with mothers from the lowest wealth quintile and 30.7 per cent of children with mothers with no education are fully immunized, compared to 61.2 per cent of children with mothers from the highest wealth quintile and 69.6 per cent of children with mothers who have more than a secondary education.
The national routine immunization consists of 10 antigens, vaccines against measles, polio, rotavirus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B, HIV, tetanus, pneumonia and tuberculosis. A new vaccine against cervical cancer (human papilloma virus) was introduced in 2015 in two districts as a demonstration project; full introduction to all districts is scheduled for 2017.
UNICEF works with World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others to ensure that vaccines protect all children – especially those who are the hardest to reach and the most vulnerable.
Ethiopia celebrated the 7th African Vaccination week on 24 April 2017 in Fiche town, Oromia region with the theme “vaccines protect everyone-get vaccinated!” and the slogan, ‘‘Vaccinated Communities; Healthy Communities’’.
World Immunization Week runs from 24 – 28 April 2017.
For more information visit: www.unicef.org/immunizationweek