*2.5bn doses worldwide, yet millions still miss out on life-saving immunisation
By Sola Ogundipe
NIGERIAN children received 450 million out of a total of 2.5 billion doses of vaccines procured by UNICEF in 2016 to children in nearly 100 countries.
Almost half of the world’s children under the age of five were reached by the vaccines, according to figures released during World Immunisation Week, April 24th-28th, 2017.
The release showed that access to immunisation has led to a dramatic decrease in deaths of children under five from vaccine-preventable diseases, and has brought the world closer to eradicating polio.
Between 2000 and 2015, under five deaths due to measles declined by 85 per cent and those due to neonatal tetanus by 83 per cent.
A proportion of the 47 per cent reduction in pneumonia deaths and 57 per cent reduction in diarrhoea deaths in this time is also attributed to vaccines.
Weak health systems, poverty and social inequities were identified as major contributors why 1 in 5 children under five is still not reached with life-saving vaccines.
According to Chief of Immunisation at UNICEF, Dr. Robin Nandy, “All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, have the right to survive and thrive, safe from deadly diseases.
“Since 1990, immunisation has been a major reason for the substantial drop in child mortality, but despite this progress, 1.5 million children still die from vaccine preventable diseases every year.”
Inequalities persist between rich and poor children. In countries where 80 per cent of the world’s under-five child deaths occur, over half of the poorest children are not fully vaccinated. Globally, the poorest children are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five as the richest.
“In addition to children living in rural communities where access to services is limited, more and more children living in overcrowded cities and slum dwellings are also missing out on vital vaccinations,” said Nandy.
“Overcrowding, poverty, poor hygiene and sanitation as well as inadequate nutrition and health care increase the risk of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and measles in these communities; diseases that are easily preventable with vaccines.”
By 2030, an estimated 1 in 4 people will live in urban poor communities, mainly in Africa and Asia, meaning the focus and investment of immunisation services must be tailored to the specific needs of these communities and children, UNICEF said.