Addis Abeba, July 16/2019 – 20 million children worldwide and 872,828 children in Ethiopia missed out on lifesaving vaccines such as measles, pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus in 2018, according to new data from WHO and UNICEF.
Globally, since 2010, vaccination coverage with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) and one dose of the measles vaccine has stalled at around 86 percent. While high, this is not sufficient. 95 percent coverage is needed – globally, across countries, and communities – to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind. Unacceptably, it’s often those who are most at risk– the poorest, the most marginalized, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes – who are persistently missed.”
Most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries, and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-affected states. Almost half are in just 16 countries – Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
If these children do get sick, they are at risk of the severest health consequences, and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care.
Measles outbreaks reveal entrenched gaps in coverage, often over many years.
Stark disparities in vaccine access persist across and within countries of all income levels. This has resulted in devastating measles outbreaks in many parts of the world – including countries that have high overall vaccination rates.
In 2018, almost 350,000 measles cases were reported globally, more than doubling from 2017.
Ukraine leads a varied list of countries with the highest reported incidence rate of measles in 2018. While the country has now managed to vaccinate over 90 percent of its infants, coverage had been low for several years, leaving a large number of older children and adults at risk.
Several other countries with high incidence and high coverage have significant groups of people who have missed the measles vaccine in the past. This shows how low coverage over time or discrete communities of unvaccinated people can spark deadly outbreaks.
Together with partners like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and UNICEF are supporting countries to strengthen their immunization systems and outbreak response, including by vaccinating all children with routine immunization, conducting emergency campaigns, and training and equipping health workers as an essential part of quality primary healthcare.
According to WHO and UNICEF national immunization coverage estimate, Ethiopia is the fifth country in the world with large number of unimmunized children. In 2018, 872,828 children were not immunized for the third dose of pentavalent vaccine and 1,215,724 children were not immunized with first dose of measles vaccines.
Though vaccination coverages for the first and third dose of DTP containing vaccine (pentavalent) in Ethiopia has increased from 77 per cent in 2010 to 85 per cent in 2018, measles vaccination coverage has shown a negligible decrease, from 64 per cent in 2010 to 61 percent in 2018. And 467,586 children have never been vaccinated at all for measles.
According to the 2016 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey report, the three biggest and populous regions of Ethiopia (Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR) constitute 85.5 per cent of unimmunized children. Incidence of unimmunized children (for all basic vaccines that are given in the country), per 100 children, is highest in Afar (80%) followed by Somali (64%) and Oromia (60%).
In addition, with the recent internal population movements, which cause service interruption, the number of unimmunized children in the country is expected to increase. UNICEF