More than 2.4 million children have not been vaccinated in Latin America and the Caribbean

According to new data from WHO and UNICEF, since 2019 there are 400,000 more infants who have not received the complete vaccination schedule that protects them from serious diseases.

18 July 2022
A baby boy after been vaccinated.
UNICEF/UN0519310/Vilca

CITY OF PANAMÁ, 19 July 2022 – Official data published by the WHO and UNICEF reveal the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccination in the last 15 years. This means that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are 2.4 million children who have not received the complete vaccination schedule against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough: 400 thousand more than in 2019 and 1.7 million more than in 2005.

The decline in vaccination coverage is happening in all regions of the world, as evidenced in the WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC) 2022 report. DTP3 vaccination coverage (a key indicator of immunization in countries) began to decline in 2010in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since then, the region has gone from 93% coverage to 75% in 2021, which means that at least 2.4 million children under one year of age have not received their complete vaccination schedule. Of those infants, 1.8 million have not received even the first dose of this vaccine.

“There are millions of children exposed to serious diseases, and even death, when we can protect them with vaccines. The decline in immunization coverage is an alarm that we must attend to and reach every child in the region,” said Javier Martos, UNICEF Acting Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

This trend was accentuated by the measures taken to contain the COVID19 pandemic, the reassignment of routine immunization personnel for vaccination against COVID19, an increase in misinformation and the increase in children living in conflict situations. and in fragile contexts. This is in addition to barriers to vaccination that existed before the pandemic and remain unresolved and have even worsened.

The causes vary from country to country, but some common elements are political instability, slow or no economic growth in countries, insufficient funding of health services, and the continuing need to respond to unpredictable public health emergencies. Barriers to the storage and distribution of vaccines in geographical areas of difficult access must also be reduced.

Immediate actions to reach every child in the region

It is essential to take immediate action to reach children who have not been vaccinated in previous years, through intensive vaccination programs. "Immunization plans must include an equity perspective, to make sure we are reaching the most vulnerable populations: migrants, indigenous and Afro-descendant groups, and children who live in the poorest urban areas," Martos emphasized.

The cost of inaction could be paid by more than 2.4 million children in the region exposed to the resurgence of preventable diseases. Vaccine-preventable epidemiological outbreaks, such as measles and diphtheria, have already occurred, further highlighting the important role that vaccines play in maintaining public health.

UNICEF calls on the governments of the region to guarantee and increase the allocation of national resources to strengthen and maintain immunization as the core of primary health care; intensify efforts to vaccinate infants who did not receive the required doses in previous years, and launch campaigns to prevent new outbreaks, especially among vulnerable communities that do not have access to health services, due to their geographical location, immigration status or ethnic identity.

 

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About the data
Based on country-reported data, the official WHO and UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (WUENIC) provide the world’s largest and most comprehensive data-set on immunization trends for vaccinations against 13 diseases given through regular health systems - normally at clinics, community centres, outreach services, or health worker visits. For 2021, data were provided from 177 countries.

Media contacts

María Alejandra Berroterán
Communication Officer
UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: +507 301 7482
Tel: +507 6292 2099
Sendai Zea
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean

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