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Children Vaccination Schemes Affected by COVID-19

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 07/26/2021 - 12:32

About 23 million children did not receive their basic immunizations in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reported UNICEF. This is the largest decline in child vaccination the world has seen since 2009.

UNICEF said that around 17 million of these children saw the vaccine access inequality widen, as they already live in communities affected by conflict, in under-served remote places or in informal or slum settings, where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic healthcare and key social services.

In 2020, 3.5 million more children missed their first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine (DTP-1) than in 2019, while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose. Mexico is one of the top 5 countries were more children missed the first dose of DTP-1 vaccine. In 2019, 348,000 children missed their first dose while by 2020 the amount climbed to 454,000.

These concerning figures reflect the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 on the Mexican healthcare sector, as traditionally, “Mexico has a very strong vaccine culture,” explained to MBN Yolanda Cervantes, Vaccine Medical Director of GSK Mexico. Cervantes said that prior and during the pandemic, it is important to keep pushing the benefits of vaccines and the importance of receiving the right dose at the right moment. “Education on the subject is very important, especially from doctor to patient.”

Mexico’s vaccinating schemes are stablished by the Ministry of Health, which also provides them for free at any public health institution. The country’s National Vaccination Scheme for Children and Adolescents includes vaccines such as hepatitis B, rotavirus, influenza, pentavalent and conjugated pneumococcus, among others. While the scheme has been labeled ‘good’ by the Mexican Association of Vaccinology (AMV), the association recommends the addition of vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis A, meningococcus and papillomavirus to the basic scheme, as well as more doses of pneumococcus.

AMV’s suggestions comes as Mexico has been unable to prevent recent outbreaks. In its 2020 report for Mexico, WHO-UNICEF pointed out that coverage went down during 2019 of the bacillus Calmette-Guerin by 56 percent, hepatitis B by 56 percent, measles and rubella by 73 percent, and diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus by 82 percent. “These figures are worrying, and explain the increase in cases of whooping cough and mumps reported in Mexico, in addition to the resurgence of measles cases, which needs coverage of more than 95 percent to prevent outbreaks,” says the AMV.

Leading vaccine manufacturers such as GSK and Sanofi are making additional efforts to supply Mexico with some of these recommended vaccines. For instance, Cervantes shared that GSK has a vaccine development for the respiratory syncytial virus, which predisposes to meningococcus. “This virus is especially dangerous for newborns, the elderly or people with serious respiratory problems,” explains Cervantes. She also said that although this disease is not very common, it has a high mortality rate and many complications. “GSK is focusing on developing a combination of vaccines against meningococcus variations.”

Sanofi is also actively developing vaccines for Mexico. Fernando Sampaio, Country Lead and General Manager of Sanofi Mexico and Sanofi Pasteur, told MBN that to protect Mexican children in 2020, their pentavalent vaccine was replaced by a hexavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B. “This substitution was carried out with no increase in price to the Mexican government,” said Sampaio.

Photo by:   CDC on Unsplash
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst