ADDIS ABEBA – More than 870,000 children in Ethiopia missed out on major lifesaving vaccines such as measles, diphtheria, and tetanus in 2018, according to WHO and UNICEF.
Ethiopia is the fifth country in the world with a large number of unimmunized children.
In 2018 alone, 872,828 children were not immunized for the third dose of pentavalent vaccine, according to WHO and UNICEF national immunization coverage estimate released on Tuesday.
And over 1.2 million children “were not immunized with the first dose of measles vaccines”, the agencies added.
The government’s data show the majority of these children – 85.5 percent – are located in Ethiopia’s three biggest and populous regions – Amhara, Oromia, and SNNPR.
In their latest estimate, Unicef and WHO claim the recent internal population movements have caused vaccination service interruption.
This may result in an increase in the number of unimmunized children in the East African nation, the pair projects.
Globally, at least 20 million children missed out on lifesaving vaccines such as measles, pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus last year, the data from WHO and UNICEF indicates.
Since 2010, vaccination coverage with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) and one dose of the measles vaccine has stalled at around 86 percent.
While high, this is not sufficient. 95 percent coverage is needed – globally, across countries, and communities – to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind. Unacceptably, it’s often those who are most at risk– the poorest, the most marginalized, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes – who are persistently missed.”
Most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-affected states.
Almost half are in just 16 countries – Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
If these children do get sick, they are at risk of the severest health consequences, and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care, according to WHO and UNICEF.