The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked numerous “anti-vax” demonstrations in many countries, particularly in Europe. Vaccination mistrust is not new, but it is growing with immediate implications for public health and the fight against diseases that have almost disappeared.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) rated this distrust of vaccinations as one of the The 10 biggest threats to global health while vaccines are one of the greatest advances in healthcare.
A global decline in vaccinations
Reluctance or refusal to get vaccinated despite the availability of vaccines threatens to undermine progress in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccination is one of the most affordable ways to prevent disease: it currently prevents 2 to 3 million deaths a year, and another 1.5 million may not occur if global immunization coverage improves.
The reasons people choose not to get vaccinated are complex; A WHO advisory group has found that over-optimism (disease believed to be eradicated or protected from), difficulties in accessing vaccines and lack of confidence are the main reasons for hesitation .
return of the measles
Measles cases, for example, increased 79% in the first two months of 2022 after the last WHO and UNICEF report. The reasons for this increase are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitation. However, there has been a resurgence of cases in some countries that were close to eradicating the disease.
Albania, Greece, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic were eliminated in 2019 measles saw the disease come back.
Poor countries are also affected by the vaccination decline, but for different reasons. According to UNICEF, one in four children in Latin America is not vaccinated. Even before the pandemic, there was a decline in vaccination coverage. A disruption to essential health services and fears of contracting COVID-19 at a vaccination site have exacerbated the situation, leaving many children without even the most basic vaccines.
Post Pandemic more than a third of countries (37%) reported interruptions or delays in their routine vaccination campaigns. More than half of the 50 countries affected by these shifts are in Africa, Exposing 228 million people to dangerous diseases.
A resurgence of the disease
Failure to vaccinate children has significant direct consequences for the recurrence of certain diseases.
Between 2015 and 2020 in Latin America and the Caribbean, the full vaccination schedule against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT3) increased from 90% to 76%.
While only 5 cases of diphtheria were reported in the region in 2013, that number rose to 900 in 2018. For measles, the number of cases rose from 500 cases to 23,000 over the same period.
In 2019, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Samoa and Ukraine were all affected by measles, resulting in the deaths of many children. WHO and UNICEF, in collaboration with affected countries, had to deal with a measles epidemic on three different continents which could have been prevented by vaccination.
Prevention and improvement of vaccination coverage
Various organizations are working with countries and partners to achieve the goals of the Global immunization agenda 2030 thereby helping to cut in half the number of children who have not received a vaccine, increase the use of new life-saving vaccines and provide fairer and more equitable access to vaccination.
“To save lives, we need to ensure everyone can benefit from vaccines, which means investing in immunizations and in the quality healthcare that everyone is entitled to,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
The implementation of full vaccination coverage for all without distinction will also make it possible to make progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular goals 3 (good health and wellbeing), 5 (gender equality) and 10 (fewer inequalities).
Getting vaccinated isn’t just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others.
Vaccination outside of COVID: a general decline due to the pandemic