Infectious Disease

Health leaders team up to raise child vaccination rates

April 25, 2023

2 min read

Source/Disclosures

Disclosures:
Berkley, Russell and Tedros report no relevant financial disclosures.

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Key takeaways:

  • A new campaign by WHO and other global health groups will encourage routine pediatric vaccinations.
  • Essential immunization levels fell in more than 100 countries during the pandemic.

WHO announced that it is partnering with other global health groups on a campaign called “The Big Catch-Up” to promote childhood vaccination amid a decline in routine immunizations in more than 100 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement coincided with World Immunization Week, which runs from April 24 to 30.

WHO is partnering with organizations across the globe for a campaign called “The Big Catch-Up,” to promote childhood vaccinations. Image: Adobe Stock

Declines in immunizations during the pandemic have led to outbreaks of measles, polio and other vaccine preventable diseases.

“Millions of children and adolescents, particularly in lower income countries, have missed out on life-saving vaccinations, while outbreaks of these deadly diseases have risen,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said in a press release.

“WHO is supporting dozens of countries to restore immunization and other essential health services,” Tedros said. “Catching up is a top priority. No child should die of a vaccine-preventable disease.”

Routine vaccines are typically “a child’s first entry into their health system, and so children who miss out on their early vaccines are at added risk of being cut out of health care in the long run,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russellso in the release.

“The longer we wait to reach and vaccinate these children, the more vulnerable they become and the greater the risk of more deadly disease outbreaks,” Russell said. “Countries, global partners and local communities must come together to strengthen services, build trust and save lives.”

According to the release, the partners — which include WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the vaccine alliance and the Gates Foundation — will be work with countries “to strengthen health care workforces, improve health service delivery, build trust and demand for vaccines within communities, and address gaps and obstacles to restoring immunization.”

“We cannot allow a legacy of the pandemic to be the undoing of many years’ work protecting more and more children from deadly, preventable diseases,” Gavi CEO seth berkley, MD, said in the release. “Global health partners, working with governments and communities, must do everything we can to protect the life of every child.”

According to WHO, the catch-up effort will focus on the 20 countries where 75% of children who missed vaccinations in 2021 live: 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.

References:

World Immunization Week 2023 – ‘The Big Catch-up’ – Fact sheets. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail. Published April 24, 2023. Accessed April 25, 2023.

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