Red Alert On Children’s Health: Historical Backslide In Global Immunization : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Key Phrases: Global Immunization, World Health Organization, UNICEF, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3), Immunisation Agenda 2030, Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), GAVI, Vaccine Alliance.

Why in News?

  • Over 25 million infants missed out on life-saving vaccines, as global childhood vaccination recorded its largest decline in about 30 years, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said, sounding a red alert on children’s health.

Key findings:

  • DPT:
    • The percentage of children who received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) — a marker for immunization coverage within and across countries — fell five percentage points between 2019 and 2021 to 81 percent.
    • As a result, 25 million children missed out on one or more doses of DTP through routine immunization services in 2021 alone.
    • This was two million more than those who missed out in 2020 and six million more than in 2019, the UN agencies said, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from preventable diseases.
  • Measles vaccine:
    • First dose measles coverage dropped to 81 percent in 2021, also the lowest level since 2008.
    • This meant 24.7 million children missed their first measles dose in 2021, 5.3 million more than in 2019. A further 14.7 million did not receive their second dose.
  • Polio vaccine:
    • Compared to 2019, 6.7 million more children missed the third dose of the polio vaccine
  • HPV vaccine:
    • 3.5 million missed the first dose of the HPV vaccine — which protects girls against cervical cancer later in life.

Immunisation Agenda 2030 (IA2030):

  • It sets an ambitious, overarching global vision and strategy for vaccines and immunization for the decade 2021–2030.
  • The IA2030 is based on learnings from Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).
  • It aims to address the unmet targets of the GVAP that were initially to be fulfilled as part of the global immunization strategy of the ‘Decade of vaccines’ (2011–2020).
  • IA2030 aims to:
    • Reduce by 50% the number of children receiving zero vaccine doses
    • Achieve 500 introductions of new or under-used vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, and
    • achieve 90 percent coverage for key life-saving vaccines.
  • WHO and UNICEF are working with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and other partners to deliver the global Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030), a strategy for all countries and relevant global partners to achieve set goals on preventing diseases through immunization and delivering vaccines to everyone, everywhere, at every age.

India is among the worst affected:

  • About 18 million of the 25 million children who did not receive a DTP dose during the year — were largely from low- and middle-income countries, with India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines recording the highest numbers.

Reasons for the decline:

  • The decline was due to many factors including
    • an increased number of children living in conflict and fragile settings where immunization access is often challenging,
    • increased misinformation and Covid-19-related issues such as service and supply chain disruptions,
    • resource diversion to response efforts, and
    • containment measures that limited immunization service access and availability.

A red alert for child health:

  • This historic backsliding in rates of immunization is happening against a backdrop of rapidly rising rates of severe acute malnutrition.
  • A malnourished child already has weakened immunity and missed vaccinations can mean common childhood illnesses quickly become lethal to them.
  • The convergence of a hunger crisis with a growing immunization gap threatens to create the conditions for a child survival crisis.
  • The world is witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation and the consequences will be measured in lives.
  • There is a need for immunization catch-ups for the missing millions or the world will inevitably witness more outbreaks, more sick children, and greater pressure on already strained health systems.

What needs to be done by the governments and relevant actors?

  • Intensify efforts for catch-up vaccination to address backsliding on routine immunization, and expand outreach services in underserved areas to reach missed children and implement campaigns to prevent outbreaks;
  • Implement evidence-based, people-centred, and tailored strategies to build trust in vaccines and immunization, counter misinformation, and, increase vaccine uptake, particularly among vulnerable communities;
  • Ensure current pandemic preparedness and response and the global health architecture strengthening efforts lead to investment in primary health care (PHC) services, with explicit support to strengthen and sustain essential immunization;
  • Ensure political commitment from national governments and increase domestic resource allocation to strengthen and sustain immunization within PHC;
  • Prioritize health information and disease surveillance systems strengthening to provide the data and monitoring needed for programs to have maximum impact; and
  • Leverage and increase investment in research to develop and improve new and existing vaccines and immunization services that can achieve community needs and deliver on IA2030 goals.


  • There is a need for governments to undertake a monumental effort to catch up on the universal coverage levels and prevent future pandemic outbreaks.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question:

Q. What are the reasons for the decline in global childhood vaccination? Elaborate measures to tackle the problem at both national and international levels.