A mother inspects her immunization book. Photo courtesy of WHO.
More than 111 million infants received vaccines in 2013 to protect them from deadly diseases. These infants account for about 84 percent of the world’s children, but an estimated 21.8 million infants remained unvaccinated, according to new estimates from WHO and UNICEF.
The estimates tell a success story for the Expanded Programme on Immunization, namely that global coverage with vaccines, measured by the proportion of kids who received three doses of vaccines containing diphtheria tetanus-pertussis (DTP3), rose from 73 percent in 2000 to 84 percent in 2013, a substantial increase.
But the numbers still fall short of the goal set out in the Global Vaccine Action Plan, which was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2012. That plan, which aims to prevent millions of deaths through more equitable access to vaccines, has a target of 90 percent coverage for all vaccines by the year 2020. The percentage of children who receive vaccines has been above 80 percent since 2006.
“We face a challenge in closing the gap between 84 percent and 90 percent,” says Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Program on Immunization. “The countries have succeeded in maintaining a high level of vaccination coverage while, at the same time, introducing new vaccines and immunizing an increasing number of children born each year. However, it is hard for them to reach all children including those in remote areas or in urban slums.”
Small anti-vaccination groups in some countries, Zaffran notes, also sometimes cause difficulties with misinformation about vaccines, presenting added challenges to national immunization programs in some cases.
Three of WHO’s regions reported very high immunization coverage: the Western Pacific with 96 percent; the European Region with 96 percent; and the Region of the Americas with 90 percent. Coverage was slightly lower in the: Eastern Mediterranean Region at 82 percent; in the South-East Asia Region at 77 percent; and in the African Region at 75 percent.
The data used in these estimates comes from official reports by national authorities as well as survey data from the published and grey literature. On a country by country basis, about two thirds of WHO’S 194 member states achieved immunization coverage of 90 percent or higher for the commonly used DPT3 vaccine measurement, the figures show.
Global coverage with at least one dose of measles containing vaccine was 84 percent and 128 WHO member states reached at least 90 percent national coverage. An estimated 52 percent of children were vaccinated with two doses of measles containing vaccine during 2013 through routine immunization services.