Immunization Rates Worldwide
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, there is growing concern that immunization rates worldwide will be drastically impacted. Impoverished nations are particularly susceptible to declining vaccination rates due to COVID-19. Therefore, it is critical that routine vaccinations continue to be delivered globally to avoid the resurgence of preventable diseases in the years to come.

DTP3 Vaccination Rate

The concern that routine vaccination rates will drop in 2020 stems primarily from data collected in the first four months of this year. The most widely-used indicator of vaccination coverage in a country is the number of children completing the full course of DTP3; this course consists of injections of the vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. In 2019, the vaccination rate for completing this indicator vaccine reached 85 percent globally. However, in 2020 there has been a large drop in the number of children receiving all three doses of DTP3. If this trend continues for the rest of the year and fails to rise quickly in the coming months, this year could be the first since 1992 to have a decrease in the DTP3 vaccination rate.

Preventable Disease Vaccination

The fall of the DTP3 vaccination rate suggests that the administration of other critical vaccines is following the same pattern. The World Health Organization reports that a minimum of 30 global vaccination initiatives for measles were canceled or are currently at risk. A survey of 82 countries conducted by multiple vaccine providers and affiliates found that 75% of those surveyed reported disruptions to vaccination campaigns due to COVID-19. In addition to challenges in providing vaccines, people refusing to leave their homes and government restrictions are factors in this sharp decrease.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was already concern about stalling vaccination rates. The DTP3 immunization rate has hovered around 85%, but a minimum of 95% is recommended to avoid outbreaks. It is critical that routine vaccination rates do not fall in order to prevent the resurgence of diseases. It is estimated that over two million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Furthermore, these preventable diseases disproportionately affect those living in impoverished countries, which already have lower vaccination rates.

The GAVI Alliance

There are some organizations working hard to face the new challenges to vaccination campaigns brought about by COVID-19. The GAVI Alliance, a vaccine organization, operates in 73 countries, 70 of which have reported COVID-19 cases. The organization has reaffirmed its commitment to providing routine vaccinations, as well as additional funding for health institutions to combat the pandemic. It is also working to establish equitable access to a vaccine for COVID-19 once one becomes available.

If immunization rates worldwide continue to drop this year, it could set back years of progress. This could lead to larger outbreaks of preventable diseases in the near future. Some organizations, such as GAVI, are working to overcome this challenge. However, the World Health Organization’s warning is serious; there are substantial challenges facing routine immunization campaigns during this pandemic that must be mitigated.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Flickr