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European Region’s Immunization Coverage: Progress with Pandemic Challenges

According to data published on 18 July 2023 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the WHO European Region achieved an average coverage of 94% with three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine (DTP3), and 93% with the first dose of the measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) in 2022. As of the latest data received up to 23 June 2023, vaccination coverage across 185 WHO and UNICEF member states has shown significant improvement following the disruption caused by the pandemic, with a noteworthy decrease in the number of children receiving no vaccine doses. European Region’s Immunization Coverage: Progress with Pandemic Challenges.

The WHO and UNICEF have recently released their annual update on global immunization coverage. These averages reflect extensive efforts by health authorities to recover from the declines in routine immunization coverage experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the success has been uneven. Specifically, 27 out of the 53 countries in the Region have not yet returned to their 2019 level of DTP3 coverage. In 2022, approximately 300,000 infants across the European Region did not receive any scheduled immunizations in their first year of life. European Region’s Immunization Coverage: Progress with Pandemic Challenges.

European Region Achieves Impressive Routine Immunization Coverage, Yet Lags Behind Pre-Pandemic Levels

The COVID-19 pandemic put strain on health systems worldwide, leading to the most significant sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in nearly three decades. However, in 2022, vaccination programs began to recover, indicating some progress in overcoming the setbacks observed in childhood and adolescent immunization during the pandemic.

European Region's Immunization Coverage: Progress with Pandemic Challenges

Nonetheless, there are still challenges ahead. Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, stated, “The European Region has worked hard to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep vaccine-preventable diseases at bay.”

Progress in Routine Immunization Coverage within European Region, but Challenges Remain from Pandemic Disruptions

In the 57 lower-income countries supported by Gavi, coverage with three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine (DTP3) – used as the global marker for immunization coverage – rose by three percentage points to 81% in 2022, coming close to the 2019 figure by just two percentage points.

In a published open letter on access to vaccines, tests, and treatments in March, global figures urged governments never to prioritize profiteering over the needs of humanity, highlighting that preventable deaths from Covid-19 occurred every 24 seconds in 2021 when vaccines were not properly targeted to those who needed them the most.

High Routine Immunization Coverage in European Region, Yet Not Fully Recovered from Pandemic Impact

The effort to catch up on missed doses and ensure that every new child receives the vaccines they need and deserve must continue at full speed in every community. This aligns with global progress, as worldwide immunization coverage has increased by three percentage points to 84%. For instance, the European Immunization Agenda 2030 aims to achieve 95% coverage for both DTP3 and MCV1, with a specific focus on combating cervical cancer, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives among women each year.

In Gavi-supported lower-income countries, the number of zero-dose children, those not receiving any doses of basic vaccines, has declined from 12.4 million to 10.2 million. However, this figure is still higher than the 9 million reported in 2019. It is crucial to note that a vaccine against cervical cancer has been available since 2006, yet only 21% of the global female population is protected. Many poorer countries have been waiting for years to gain access, while limited doses have been delivered in wealthier settings with lower mortality rates.

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