May 3, 2023

In The News: ‘The Big Catch-Up’: Health Leaders Team Up to Raise Child Vaccination Rates

Based on an announcement by the World Health Organization, Healio reports on a multi-organization campaign to promote childhood vaccination following a decline in routine immunizations during the pandemic. ‘The Big Catch-Up’ was announced during World Immunization Week (April 24-30) and is intended to focus on more than 100 countries worldwide. The partnership includes WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the Gates Foundation, and others.

Children and adolescents particularly in lower-income countries, though the United States has also experienced declines, have missed out on life-saving vaccinations. The declines have led to outbreaks of several preventable diseases, including measles and polio. As its name shows, the campaign prioritizes catching children up on immunizations, but additional goals are also expressed. These include strengthening health care workforces, improving service delivery, building trust and demand for vaccinations, and addressing gaps in restoring immunizations.

The executive director of UNICEF points out that children who miss out on early vaccines tend to miss out on health care in the long run. Missing out on vaccinations also increases the risk of deadly disease outbreaks. Meanwhile, the head of Gavi declared that we cannot allow the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic include the undoing of decades of work protecting children and communities from disease.

The effort will focus on 20 countries where 75% of children missed vaccinations in 2021. Those countries are: Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Tanzania and Vietnam.

PIDS member Jim Conway commented on the story, “Routine preventive health services have been disrupted throughout the pandemic in communities across the globe. But children living in low resourced settings with pre-existing insecurity and access issues have been most severely affected. Immunization services have been particularly impacted, resulting in the resurgence of many vaccine preventable diseases, including measles. A collective commitment to catching up children in all communities is more critical than ever, or we run the risk of losing so much of the progress made over the last 20 years. There seems no better time for the WHO to join with other global partners to address this, than World Immunization Week.”

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