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Global Health
September 15, 2020

Routine Vaccinations Decline During Pandemic

JAMA. 2020;324(11):1025. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.16968

An alarming decline in routine vaccinations among children and adolescents has occurred since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began, according to a survey led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

These decreases threaten to “reverse hard-won progress,” according to WHO and UNICEF officials, who warned that at least 30 measles campaigns have been or could be cancelled and the number of children receiving 3 doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine has declined for the first time in 28 years.

Health officials from 82 countries participated in the web-based survey conducted in June. About 85% reported reduced routine vaccination rates in May compared with the pre-pandemic months of January and February. About half of the survey respondents said that inadequate personal protective equipment for health care workers contributed to disruptions in immunization services, while 40% reported travel restrictions and 43% said they had too few health workers to administer vaccines.

Almost three-quarters of the countries reported reduced demands for vaccinations, driven primarily by fears of coronavirus exposure and barriers related to physical distancing.

“COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, MS, said in a statement. “We must prevent a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and urgently resume vaccination programs before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases.”