NEW DELHI: India has the highest number of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated children worldwide at 3.5 million, said the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). There has been an increase of 1.4 million from the last two years. This comes amid the country reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic. Unprotected children are those who have not received any or few doses of their due vaccination.
“More than 3 million of these ‘zero-dose children’ in 2020 lived in India,” the UNICEF said in a statement. South Asia recorded the highest number of children — almost 4.4 million — who have not received routine vaccination in the past 10 years, it said.
Globally, the UNICEF said, the data shows that just 10 countries account for 62% of all under or unvaccinated children. “India, particularly, was hit hard by the pandemic having the highest number of unprotected children worldwide at 3.5 million, an increase of 1.4 million compared with 2019, when the number was 1.2 million,” said UNICEF.
“While health systems are strained by the COVID-19 response, we must be cautious in our fight against the pandemic so as not to interfere with decades of gain against other preventable diseases. We cannot afford to lose out on routine immunisation and letting vaccine-preventable diseases endanger children’s health,” said Yasumasa Kimura, officer-in-charge and deputy representative programmes, UNICEF India.
“UNICEF is partnering with the government of India to support continuity of essential health and immunisation services through planning, implementation, and monitoring of strategies to identify and vaccinate missed children. We also support generating awareness and confidence among communities to vaccinate their children and strengthening the cold chain for routine immunisation,” he said.