Following the July 2017 release of the WHO and UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage and the corresponding chorus of concerns about sustained (i.e., a more positive alternative to the term “stagnated” that is frequently used) levels of vaccination coverage since around 2010 that seems to follow, I thought it useful to remind readers that the number of children vaccinated is increasing! Unfortunately, the number of children vaccinated from one year to the next during the recent period has not outpaced the natural population growth (as estimated by UN Population Division), a requirement for vaccination COVERAGE levels to increase over time.
For example, at the global level, although estimated DTPCV3 coverage has remained around 85% since 2010, the estimated number of children who received three doses of DTPCV increased by more than 3.2 million between 2010 and 2016. Without surprise, the estimated number of surviving infants globally also increased, in fact, by more than 2.7 million from an estimated 133 to 136 million surviving infants. A similar pattern was observed among the Gavi 73 countries, for which nearly more 4.2 million children were vaccinated with DTPCV3 in 2016 than in 2010; again, the estimated number of surviving infants increased, by some 2.8 million children among Gavi 73 countries.
Across the Gavi 73 countries, estimated DTPCV3 coverage was sustained at roughly the same level between 2010 and 2016 in 41 countries (estimated DTPCV3 coverage increased meaningfully in 24 countries and decreased meaningfully in eight countries). And among these 41 countries with sustained coverage levels for DTPCV3, the estimated number of children vaccinated increased between 2010 and 2016 in 31 countries by a total of more than 1 million infants.
So, as the chorus of concern around sustained coverage levels is heard far and wide, from the opening session of the TechNet conference and beyond, let us give credit to the achievement of the national immunization programmes over the past 7-10 years – a period during which many programmes introduced multiple new vaccines (!), endured the effects of a global financial crisis and in some cases had to deal with civil conflict, large disease outbreaks and/or natural disasters. The achievements are noteworthy. Without question, there is more that can be and must be done moving forward…but, let’s not lose track of the fact that more children are vaccinated today than ever before and this number continues to increase.