The number of children who did not receive their first vaccinations for preventable diseases increased in all regions, with the most significant disruptions reported in countries in Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.
India, which has faced one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, has been hit especially hard by the decline in vaccinations, according to data provided by the W.H.O. and UNICEF. More than three million children in India did not receive a first dose of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, known as DTP-1, in 2000, up from 1.4 million in 2019. That marked a troubling reversal for a country that had significantly increased the rate of childhood immunizations across its vast population in recent years, experts said.
Other countries with the greatest increases of children who missed immunizations include Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico and Mozambique.
“These are alarming numbers, suggesting the pandemic is unraveling years of progress in routine immunization and exposing millions of children to deadly, preventable diseases,” said Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership that helps provide vaccines to developing countries.
Global vaccination rates for children against diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, and measles had already plateaued for years before the pandemic, the W.H.O. said. School closures and the redirection of resources to tackle Covid-19 further disrupted vaccine services, and fears of being infected with the coronavirus left people reluctant to bring their children for immunizations, the organizations added.