12.9 million infants globally, almost 1 in 10, did not receive any vaccinations in 2016 as estimated by a joint report of WHO and UNICEF. This figure shows that these children are prone to contract fatal diseases such as Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTP) as they haven’t developed immunity to combat these diseases.
Out of those who did receive the first dose of vaccine against DTP, an estimated 6.6 million infants did not complete the course which comprises of three dose of the vaccine. WHO hasn’t observed any significant change in the figure of infants who did receive the full course of the vaccination since 2010 which has remained at 86% (116.5 million infants) in all countries and regions, almost 5% short of their estimated global coverage.
Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO says “Most of the children that remain un-immunized are the same ones missed by health systems. These children most likely have also not received any of the other basic health services.”
Immunization has proved to be the most cost-effective means to terminate diseases ranging from tetanus and diphtheria to measles and coughing. “If we are to raise the bar on global immunization coverage, health services must reach the unreached. Every contact with the health system must be seen as an opportunity to immunize”, added Dr Jean.
According to WHO’s latest findings, 130 out of 194 WHO Member States have successfully sustained the DTP vaccination coverage at 90%. However, there’s still a long way to go in order to achieve 90% worldwide with at least 10 million additional infants that need to be vaccinated. In 2016, 8 countries including Central African Republic, Nigeria, Somalia, and Ukraine had less than 50% coverage.
Global coverage of more recently-recommended vaccines are yet to reach 50% which include vaccinations against major killers of children such as rotavirus, a disease that causes severe childhood diarrhoea, and pneumonia.
Middle-income countries are lagging severely behind in providing these newer and more expensive vaccinations as these costs are not covered neither by their health budget or external funds.
“Immunization is one of the most pro-equity interventions around,” says Dr Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunizations at UNICEF. “Bringing life-saving vaccines to the poorest communities, women and children must be considered a top priority in all contexts.”
WHO and UNICEF have proposed that in order to elevate the vaccination coverage figure, the status of women within the households and their education level must be improved. The poor that reside in the sprawling urban areas are believed to be more under threat of contracting fatal diseases, a major problem posed by increased urbanisation.