JOHANNESBURG April 21 (BNA): Nearly 13 million children missed one or more vaccines in Africa between 2019 and 2021 due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the continent vulnerable to further disease outbreaks and confrontations,” said a new report from UNICEF. On Thursday, “Child Survival Crisis,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Amid a global “rollback” in child immunization over those three years, which the United Nations Children’s Fund said was the worst decline in child vaccination in 30 years, Africa is the region with the largest number of unvaccinated and unvaccinated children. UNICEF said 12.7 million African children missed one or more vaccines and 8.7 million did not receive a single dose of any vaccine from 2019-2021.
The State of the World’s Children 2023 report confirms previous indications and outlines more data showing that the pandemic has “stopped vaccinating children almost everywhere,” according to UNICEF.
Half of the 20 countries in the world with the highest number of children without any vaccines – referred to as “undose” children – are in Africa, UNICEF said. In Nigeria, 2.2 million children have never been vaccinated. In Ethiopia, 1.1 million people are not immunized against the diseases.
The UNICEF report comes as Africa, as well as other parts of the world, are reporting disease outbreaks on a scale not seen in years. And in the southern African country of Malawi, more than 1,000 people died in a cholera outbreak at the start of the year, the worst in 20 years. Nearly 700 children died in a measles outbreak in Zimbabwe last year. Authorities said most Zimbabwean children had not been vaccinated against the disease.
UNICEF said that “intense demands on health systems, diversion of immunization resources to the COVID-19 vaccine, shortages of health workers and stay-at-home measures” all contributed to the loss of vaccinations worldwide. So have conflicts, climate change, and vaccine hesitation.
UNICEF said the pandemic in Africa has exposed and exacerbated “lack of resilience and persistent weaknesses in health systems and primary health care”.
Last year, 34 countries out of 54 in Africa suffered outbreaks of diseases such as measles, cholera and poliovirus, UNICEF said, adding that there was a “child survival crisis” on the continent.
The resurgence of these diseases should serve as a clear warning to Africa, said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“African leaders must act now and take strong policy action to reduce the vaccination gap and make sure all children are immunized and protected,” he said.
Noting that children born before or during the pandemic are now past the age at which they would normally be vaccinated, UNICEF stressed the need for health authorities to “catch up” on missed vaccinations to prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases.
Also Thursday, the World Health Organization released its assessment, saying Africa needs to vaccinate an estimated 33 million children by 2025 to get back on track and recover from the “devastating aftermath” of the COVID-19 pandemic.