Disruption to Vaccination Services During Lockdowns Has Driven Down Childhood Immunisation Rates, New Study Finds

A review of 35 studies comparing changes in the pattern of childhood vaccinations before and during Covid for Collateral Global has found that obstacles to vaccination services have “[driven] down immunisation rates, especially in disadvantaged people and poorer countries”. The review, led by Carl Heneghan, Jon Brassey, and Tom Jefferson, highlights that this reduction in services has affected over 80 million children under the age of one from countries across the world.

According to the World Health Organisation’s [WHO] first pulse interim survey published in August 2020, 16/91 (18%) of countries reported severe/complete disruption of routine mobile immunization services, and 10% reported disruption to static routine immunisation services. About half of the countries reported partial disruptions of routine immunisation for both health facilities and mobile services. [WHO first-round survey 2020] …

The WHO’s second round national pulse survey from January to March 2021 reported that more than one-third of 135 countries experienced disruptions to immunisation services: routine facility-based disruption occurred in 35 (34%) countries surveyed and outreach immunisation services occurred in 30 (39%) of countries.

Looking at polio vaccination alone, the review found that the drive to vaccinate children was halted in many countries until the second half of 2020. In Pakistan, for instance, the polio vaccine roll-out stopped in April 2020 and the disruption to services resulted in 40 million children missing polio vaccinations. Pakistan was not, unfortunately, an exemption to the rule.

In a hospital centre in Senegal, polio vaccination was reduced from March to August 2020. [Sow A 2020] Data from Sierra Leone on five common vaccinated diseases from Mar 1st, 2020, to Apr 26th, 2020, compared with 2019, reported decreases in vaccination ranging from 50% to 85% depending on the individual vaccine analysed, including the OPV1 vaccine. [Buonsenso D 2021]

In April 2020, The WHO reported that Niger had an outbreak of vaccine-derived poliovirus that affected two children –having suspended the vaccination campaign due to the pandemic. Niger’s last wild polio case was in 2012. Niger joins 15 countries experiencing vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks in Africa. No wild poliovirus has been detected in Africa since 2016. Niger joins the list of countries experiencing vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks in Africa.

The Collateral Global review is worth reading in full.

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