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5 Takeaways: World’s Childhood Vaccination Rate Plunges

Pandemic fuels global vaccination decline

December 26, 2022

The pandemic has fueled a dramatic decline in child immunizations, with millions of children falling behind on essential protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.

With millions of children missing routine vaccination during the pandemic, public health leaders are calling attention to the importance of catching up on missed vaccines during the New Year.

Recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF indicate that the world has faced the “largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations” during the pandemic and risks the return of vaccine-preventable illnesses.

“This is a red alert for child health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Startling results:  A WHO/UNICEF report indicated the percentage of children who received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) fell five percentage points between 2019 and 2021 to 81 percent.
  • Measles comeback:  Nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose during 2021, including 25 million children missed their first dose and an additional 14.7 million children missed their second dose.
  • U.S. perspective:  The CDC indicated U.S. coverage was about 94 percent for all required vaccines during the 2020–2021 school year, or about one percentage point lower than the previous school year. The exemption rate remained at 2.2 percent.
  • By the numbers:  Pennsylvania’s vaccine coverage for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (93.9%) and DTaP (85.0%) was ahead of the national average.
  • Quotable:  “Declines in vaccine coverage, weakened measles surveillance, and continued interruptions and delays in immunization activities due to COVID-19, as well as persistent large outbreaks in 2022, mean that measles is an imminent threat in every region of the world,” the WHO said in a recent report.

HAP urges everyone to learn more about the vaccine schedule for children and ensure they remain up to date on their vaccines. Additional information about vaccines for children is available online.