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Children Immunization Makes Progress in Recovery Following COVID-19 Setback

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Recent data from WHO and UNICEF reveal promising indications of immunization services rebounding in some countries. However, in low-income countries, coverage remains below pre-pandemic levels, posing significant risks to children from disease outbreaks.

In 2022, global immunization services reached an additional 4 million children compared to the previous year. As countries intensified their efforts to combat the historic decline in immunization caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Data published today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF reveals that in 2022, 20.5 million children missed out on one or more vaccines delivered through routine immunization services, in comparison to 24.4 million children in 2021. The number remains higher than the 18.4 million children who missed out in 2019 before pandemic-related disruptions occurred. This emphasizes the ongoing need for catch-up, recovery, and system strengthening efforts.

The vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) serves as the global marker for immunization coverage. In 2022, out of the 20.5 million children who missed one or more doses of their DTP vaccines, 14.3 million did not receive a single dose, commonly referred to as zero-dose children. An improvement from the 18.1 million zero-dose children in 2021 but remains higher than the 12.9 million children in 2019.

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The initial phases of global immunization recovery have not been uniform, as improvements have been concentrated in a few countries. Progress in well-resourced countries with significant infant populations, such as India and Indonesia, masks slower recovery or ongoing declines in most low-income countries, particularly regarding measles vaccination.

These data are encouraging and a tribute to those who have worked tirelessly to restore life-saving immunization services after two years of sustained decline in immunization coverage. However, global and regional averages do not provide the full picture and conceal severe and persistent inequities. When countries and regions lag, children bear the consequences.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Notes to editors:

A substantial decline is defined as a decrease of 5 percentage points or more in 2020 and/or 2021 when compared to the coverage levels observed in 2019. Minor fluctuations in coverage were commonplace before the pandemic.

  2019 2020 2021 2022
DTP3 coverage 86% 83% 81% 84%
No. of under-vaccinated children 18.4m 22.3m 24.5m 20.5m
DTP1 coverage 90% 88% 86% 89%
No. of ‘zero dose’ children 12.9m 16.1m 18.1m 14.3m

Global Immunization Trends in 2022: WHO and UNICEF Data from 183 Countries

The WHO and UNICEF estimate of national immunization coverage (WUENIC), based on country-reported data. Offers the world’s largest and most comprehensive dataset on immunization trends for vaccinations . Typically at clinics, community centers, outreach services, or health worker visits. Data from 183 countries were provided for the year 2022.

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