Great news from the world of life-saving vaccinations! According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of countries with 90 percent coverage of children receiving routine life-saving vaccinations has doubled between 2000 and 2014.

In 2012, 194 WHO Member States endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) and committed to delivering vital vaccinations, with the goal of 90 percent diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccination coverage in all countries by 2015. GVAP sought to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 by expanding the access of vaccines. The plan resulted from DoV collaboration, which brought together development, health and immunization experts and stakeholders. It was also made possible with the leadership of organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with partnerships in all levels of government, across various segments of society.

The global immunization target has seen an incredible push forward, with 90 percent of children receiving the required three doses of DTP3 vaccines, in 129 countries as of 2014. Currently, DTP3 immunization coverage stands at 86 percent for all 3 doses, and at 91 percent for infants receiving at least one dose. This is a great improvement from 2000, when 21 million children did not receive the first dose of DTP3, which is now up to 12 million.

Another great improvement is India’s current immunization rate. India has the largest number of unvaccinated children and is now at 80 percent of DTP3 coverage. According to the WHO, India is one of the three countries where almost half of the world’s unvaccinated children live. The other two countries are Indonesia and Nigeria.

Improvements in meeting other immunization targets have been made. Hepatitis B, which is common in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, has seen an increase in vaccinations from 2000 to 2014, from 30 percent receiving 3 doses to 82 percent. The number of children protected from Hepatitis B is high and increasing.

Another improvement in meeting immunizations targets have occurred with the rotavirus, which is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children and infants and is widespread in developing and under-developed countries in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. More countries are using vaccines against the rotavirus and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

Despite these incredible improvements, there is still more room for improvement. According to the WHO, 65 countries need to improve their strategies for meeting the GVAP goal. These include six countries with less than 50 percent coverage with DTP3: Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic.

We’re on the right path to meeting the global immunization targets considering it has doubled, we just need to develop better strategies to speed up the process to make sure we can get to 100 percent of all children receiving routine life-saving vaccinations.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: International Business Times, World Health Organization
Photo: International Business Times