After woeful statistics of global vaccine uptake decreases, and the news from UNAIDS that the AIDS response is “under threat”, Gavi published an analysis of 2021 immunisation rates. As 2020 saw the “biggest drop in routine immunisation coverage”, we had little reason to be hopeful.  

In the years before the Covid-19 pandemic, lower-income countries demonstrated “two decades of skyrocketing vaccine coverage”. This was revealed in the increase of DTP3 doses from 59% in 2000 to 82% in 2019. Unfortunately, the pandemic “reversed these gains” with a total drop of 5% over 2 years. With this drop came a rise in the number of zero-dose children to 12.5 million. The consequences of this could be “felt for a generation”.  

However, there were some positive changes across the world. Over half of the 57 countries supported by Gavi “managed to stabilise or even increase coverage” in 2021.  

“Amidst the gloom there are signs of recovery and resilience.”  

Cheers to Chad and Pakistan 

A highlight in the report was the strong performance by Chad and Pakistan. Chad increased vaccine coverage throughout the pandemic. The percentage of children immunised with “basic vaccines” rose from 50% in 2019 to 58% in 2021. Although Pakistan experienced a setback during the 2020 lockdowns, it was able to return “both vaccine coverage and the number of zero-dose children close to pre-pandemic levels”.

Covid-19 vaccination successes 

The report also highlights the fact that vaccine programmes were pretty preoccupied during 2021 with the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.  

“In fact, taking into account the two billion Covid-19 vaccines rolled out by the 57 Gavi-supported countries, 2021 saw more vaccines administered by lower-income countries than any other year in history.” 

Thanks to the persistence of health officials and volunteers across the globe, routine and Covid-19 vaccination programmes were delivered in 2021. Covid-19 vaccine coverage rose “in the 92 lower-income countries eligible for the COVAX AMC” to 48%. 

So perhaps, as we head into 2023 beset by stories of failure and fatigue, let’s consider the positive changes that were brought into effect, and push to build on these in the future.  

To hear from Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO of the Gavi Alliance, at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, 2023, click here