India Has More Confidence In Children's Vaccines Now, Says UNICEF Report

The report, however, also said that India is home to about 2.7 million of the world's zero-dose children.

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India is among the three countries out of 55 studied for popular perception of the importance of vaccines for children that have shown improvement, according to a report published by UNICEF on Thursday.

According to the data collected by The Vaccine Confidence Project (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) used by UNICEF, China and Mexico are the other two countries.

It comes at a time when vaccine confidence has seen a decline in over a third of the countries that were studied, including the Republic of Korea, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Senegal and Japan after the start of the pandemic, the UN organisation said.

In 52 of the 55 countries surveyed, the public perception of vaccines for children declined between 2019 and 2021, the UN agency said. The data was a “worrying warning signal” of rising vaccine hesitancy amid misinformation, dwindling trust in governments and political polarisation, it said.

"In most countries, people under 35 and women were more likely to report less confidence about vaccines for children after the start of the pandemic," it said.

The report said that vaccine confidence is volatile and time-specific, despite more than 80% of the respondents perceiving vaccines as important for children in almost half of the countries studied.

The UNICEF report warns of the growing threat of vaccine hesitancy and flags concerns such as access to misleading information and declining trust in vaccine efficacy.

The decline in vaccine confidence globally comes amid the largest sustained backslide in childhood immunization in 30 years, fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic that interrupted childhood vaccination in most countries, mainly due to diversion of immunisation resources to Covid-19 vaccination and lockdowns.

Some 67 million children around the world partially or completely missed routine vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, and more than a decade of hard-earned gains in routine childhood immunisation have been eroded, it said.

In 2022, the number of measles cases was more than double the total in the previous year, and the number of children paralysed by polio was up 16% year-on-year in 2022. There was an eight-fold increase in the number of children paralysed by polio compared to earlier years.

The report said that India was however able to arrest the backslide and bring down the number to 2.7 million, which represents a smaller proportion of India’s under-5 child population, given its size and the world’s largest birth cohort.

The report said this was because of sustained evidence-based catch-up campaigns initiated by the government, including the Intensified Mission Indradhanush, continued provision of comprehensive Primary Health Care services, a strong Routine Immunization programme and dedicated health workers. Steady progress is being made to reach the last mile and the last child.

“The new data in UNICEF’s report shows gains in vaccine confidence in India amid declining confidence in childhood vaccines in many other countries following the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Luigi D'Aquino, chief of health at UNICEF India.

“Building confidence in vaccines is vital to ramping up coverage for children across the country. It takes an entire village to gain the trust of parents and communities. Without the political commitment and the hard work of health workers that travel far and wide to inform parents and address their fears, this feat would not have been possible," D'Aquino said.

The report, however, also said that India is home to about 2.7 million of the world's zero-dose children. These are children who have not received a single routine vaccine.