World Immunization Week 2023: The Big Catch Up

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced vaccination coverage in children. Can we catch up?
World Immunization Week 2023: The Big Catch Up
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 01 May, 2023

World Immunization Week 2023 took place from April 24th to the 30th. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined a working slogan that summarizes the objective: “The big catch-up”.

This expression refers to the delays suffered by immunization worldwide, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this disease was addressed with the development in record time of a vaccine and the largest vaccination campaign ever seen by mankind, other issues were neglected.

The WHO itself estimates that, during 2021, 25 million children didn’t receive the vaccines they needed for their age. That’s why World Immunization Week 2023 proposes that we need to catch up.

What the COVID-19 pandemic left us

An analysis published in the scientific journal Annals of Medicine highlighted some statistics regarding vaccination schedules and compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the authors:

  • In the initial phase of confinement, routine vaccination was reduced by 70% in most countries. The reduction was most noticeable for polio and diphtheria immunizations.
  • 80 million children worldwide increased their risk of infections that are preventable with routine vaccines.
  • In the United States alone, 80% fewer doses of measles vaccines were administered in 2020 than in other years.
  • In the United Kingdom, a reduction of almost 20% in doses of measles/rubella/mumps antiviral vaccines was recorded during the first month of confinement.
  • In 2020, Singapore achieved only 84% vaccination coverage in its child population, compared to 95% coverage the previous year.
  • In Brazil, more than 20% of children over 2 months of age didn’t receive their scheduled doses on time.

As for vaccination campaigns, the data isn’t encouraging either. The reality reveals the problem that the health systems had to look for the children who should have been vaccinated. In other words, it wasn’t only a lack of interest on the part of the population or an impediment due to confinement.

According to estimates published in 2021:

  • Governments suspended 90 mass vaccination campaigns during the pandemic.
  • Polio campaigns were drastically halted and this is consistent with the increase in reported cases of the disease in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Middle- and low-income countries showed the greatest downward trend in their vaccination rates for the child population.

The situation in Europe

In many countries, they took the decision to suspend the school vaccination schedule and only vaccination for pregnant women remained in place. This was a factor that strongly contributed to the loss of coverage percentages.

In addition, the publication highlights that telemedicine and the fear of contact with others were characteristics that caused the delay in the vaccination schedule. Specifically, in vials that aren’t free, the drop in coverage was more noticeable.

How to catch up in World Immunization Week?

It’s possible to take advantage of the World Immunization Week campaign to catch up if we haven’t completed some vaccines in our schedule. Each country has a specific coverage plan for its children and adult population. We should go to a health center to find out which doses we may have missed out on.

There are also campaigns carried out on an ad hoc basis when there are outbreaks of a certain disease. In general, the health ministries announce these mass vaccinations with posters, leaflets, and media advertising.

Accessibility to the Internet gives you the opportunity to review updated information on available vials. By accessing trusted sites, you can better understand which immunizations are a priority, which ones have more evidence in favor, and whether they’re appropriate for you.

Why catch up?

This year’s emphasis on catching up on vaccines reminds us that there’s enough evidence for adults and children to protect themselves with routine immunizations. According to information from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), just 10 routine vaccines given to the entire population can prevent an estimated 25 million deaths.

The 10 vaccines in question are as follows:

  1. Rubella
  2. Measles
  3. Hepatitis B
  4. Japanese encephalitis
  5. Human papillomavirus
  6. Haemophilus influenzae type b
  7. Meningococcus A
  8. Yellow fever
  9. Pneumococcus
  10. Rotavirus

Some of these vaccines aren’t free in all countries. This makes access difficult for many people, as is pointed out in a publication of the Vaccines magazine. However, many others are free and only require a visit to a health center.

World Immunization Week is a community commitment

Missed opportunities for vaccination cause greater harm to children. To catch up with their schedules, young children need adults to take them to health centers. This shows that without commitment from parents, caregivers, and teachers, it will be impossible to make up for the time taken by the pandemic.

World Immunization Week is an opportunity to review what doses we have and what doses are missing in our families. The simple step of going to a vaccination center already means reducing the risk of getting ill in the future.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.