The Vaccine Alliance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Immunization Agenda 2030, and many other global and national health partners are calling for “The Big Catch-up,” a global effort to boost child vaccination rates after the COVID-19 pandemic.
This project intends to reverse the decreases in childhood immunization in over 100 countries since the pandemic due to overworked health systems, closed clinics, and disrupted imports and exports of vials, syringes, and other medical equipment. Due to the emergency response, communities and families were locked down, restricting movement and services, and financial, human, and health resources were constrained. Conflicts, climatic disasters, and vaccine hesitancy also reduced coverage.
Measles, diphtheria, polio, and yellow fever outbreaks are rising due to 25 million youngsters skipping at least one immunization in 2021. The Big Catch-up protects against vaccine-preventable outbreaks, saves children, and strengthens national health systems.
The Big Catch-up will focus on the 20 nations where three quarters of the children who missed immunizations in 2021 live
There have been resilient areas despite declining worldwide coverage. Early data indicate India had a significant essential immunization recovery in 2022, while Uganda maintained high pandemic coverage. Countries also reached vulnerable groups. Community health workers and local leaders have helped nomadic populations in northern Kenya get vaccinated.
Partners are helping countries develop health care workforces, improve health service delivery, build community trust and demand for vaccines, and address gaps and barriers to childhood immunization. To prevent cervical cancer, teenagers need the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
“Millions of children and adolescents, particularly in lower-income countries, have missed out on life-saving vaccinations, while outbreaks of these deadly diseases have risen,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. WHO helps dozens of nations restore immunization and other health services. Catching up is essential. Vaccine-preventable diseases should not kill children.”
“Routine vaccines are typically a child’s first entry into their health system and so children who miss out on their early vaccines are at added risk of being cut out of health care in the long run,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “The longer we wait to reach and vaccinate these children, the more vulnerable they become and the greater the risk of deadly disease outbreaks. Countries, global partners, and local communities must collaborate to improve services, establish trust, and save lives.”
“We cannot allow a legacy of the pandemic to undo many years’ work protecting more and more children from deadly, preventable diseases,” said Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley. Global health partners must collaborate with governments and communities to save every child.
Dr. Chris Elias, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation head of Global Development, called vaccines a public health achievement. “Thousands of devoted global partners and local health professionals have immunized millions of children to stop polio and reduce infectious disease rates. We must double down to reach all children with the immunizations they need to live healthier lives and protect future generations from preventable diseases like polio.”