Confidence in childhood vaccines is in decline worldwide

Since the pandemic, confidence in vaccinating children has plummeted. In a new report, UNICEF urges world leaders to act before the situation worsens. In 52 out of 55 countries surveyed, public perception of the importance of vaccinating children has declined.

During the pandemic, the vaccination of children plummeted to its lowest level in 30 years. The discouraging figures published by UNICEF and WHO last summer are now followed by a new report.

According to the new UNICEF report on immunization, public perception of the importance of routine vaccination for children has declined during the pandemic in 52 of the 55 surveyed countries. In countries such as Japan, South Korea and Ghana, confidence has dropped by more than a third since the start of the pandemic.

– This is an alarming warning signal. We cannot allow confidence in routine vaccination to become another casualty of the pandemic, as it may result in the next wave of deaths being more children with measles, diphtheria or other preventable diseases, says Catherine Russell, CEO of UNICEF, in a press release.

Since 2019, 48 million children worldwide have not received any routine vaccination at all, while 67 million children have not been vaccinated against the deadliest childhood diseases.

Children born just before, or during, the pandemic are now passing the age at which they would normally be vaccinated. UNICEF stresses the urgency of catching up to prevent deadly disease outbreaks. In 2022, for example, measles outbreaks more than doubled compared to 2021, and the number of children paralysed by polio increased by 16%.

Support for vaccines remains relatively strong; in almost half of the countries, around 80% said vaccines are important for children.

However, according to the report, factors such as declining confidence in expertise, political polarization and misleading information suggest that the situation could worsen. UNICEF urges governments to take action to increase trust, double funding for vaccination, and to identify and approach children who have not been vaccinated.

The Swedish Medical Products Agency comments on the global development in a press release.

– Since many of the diseases we currently vaccinate against are uncommon in Sweden, it is easy to forget how critical they can be, says Charlotta Bergquist, vaccine investigator and group leader at the Swedish Medical Products Agency.

– This means there is a risk that uncommon diseases in Sweden could reoccur in unvaccinated parts of the population.

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