Millions of Children Missed Vital Vaccinations Over Covid-19

More than 60 million children globally did not receive out on one or more essential vaccinations between 2019 and 2021 due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and armed conflict, but also decreasing confidence in vaccines, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said.

In its State of the World's Children 2023 report, UNICEF says that vaccination coverage levels decreased in 112 countries during the pandemic, "the largest sustained backslide in childhood immunization in 30 years". According to the agency, a rise in misleading information on vaccines is one of the factors at play.

UNICEF's Executive Director Catherine Russell said that while at the height of the pandemic, scientists rapidly developed life-saving vaccines, "despite this historic achievement, fear and disinformation about all types of vaccines circulated as widely as the virus itself".

UNICEF says the pandemic interrupted childhood vaccination "almost everywhere", due to stretched health systems and stay-at-home measures. But new data also shows a trend of declining confidence in childhood vaccines of up to 44 percentage points in a number of countries.

In its report, UNICEF warns that the public perception of the importance of vaccines for children declined during the Covid-19 pandemic in 52 out of 55 countries studied.

However, the report warns that "the confluence of several factors suggests the threat of vaccine hesitancy may be growing". Among these factors, the report's authors cite growing access to misleading information, declining trust in expertise, and political polarization.



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