The World Health Organization on Tuesday called for intensified efforts towards childhood immunization with a focus on reaching the 2.3 million unvaccinated and 650,000 partially vaccinated children.
The WHO and UNICEF estimates for national immunization coverage for 2022 which was released on Tuesday showed that in WHO’s south-east Asia region the coverage rate for DPT3, third dose of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccines reached 91 per cent of the pre-pandemic level, a sharp increase from 82 per cent recorded in 2021.
Complementing member countries for scaling up childhood immunization coverage to pre-pandemic level, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO’s South-East Asia region regional director, said that every child deserves to be protected against life-threatening diseases with routine immunization. “The momentum built with impressive efforts and immunization service recoveries must continue to benefit every child for a healthy and productive life,” she said.
The south-east Asia region had the best immunization recoveries among all WHO regions which can be majorly attributed to efforts being made by India and Indonesia, Singh said. She informed that India recorded 93 per cent DPT3 coverage in 2022, surpassing the pre-pandemic all-time high of 91 per cent in 2019 and a rapid increase from 85 per cent recorded in 2021.
Similarly, the number of partially vaccinated children — who have received at least one dose of DPT vaccine but not the complete primary series of three doses, reduced from 1.3 million in 2021 to 6,50,000 in 2022. The region has also shown a six per cent improvement in coverage of the measles vaccine in 2022 compared to 2021, moving from 86 per cent to 92 per cent. The number of children who have not received even the first dose of DPT vaccine halved from 4.6 million in 2021 to 2.3 million in 2022.
“While overall immunization coverage levels are looking good and the progress encouraging, there remain variabilities in the coverage at sub-national levels in countries, especially in those with large populations. The inequities in immunization coverage leading to accumulation of pockets of unvaccinated children pose the risk of outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, and other vaccine-preventable diseases. These gaps must be closed,” Singh said.