The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) says it procured 2.5 billion doses of vaccines for children in about 100 countries in 2016 and reached almost half of the world’s children under the age of five.
UNICEF revealed this in a statement by Dr Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunisation to mark this year’s world vaccination week.
A copy of the statement was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja by Ms Doune Porter, UNICEF Chief of Communication.
Nandy noted that the figures placed UNICEF as the largest buyer of vaccines for children in the world and the lead procurement agency for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Nandy, who identified Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the three remaining polio-endemic countries however said that each of them received more doses of vaccines than any other country.
He specifically said about 450 million doses of vaccines was procured for children in Nigeria, 395 million in Pakistan and over 150 million in Afghanistan.
According to him, access to immunisation has led to a dramatic decrease in deaths of under-five children from vaccine-preventable diseases and has brought the world closer to eradicating polio.
Nandy further noted that between 2000 and 2015 under five deaths due to measles declined by 85 per cent and those due to neonatal tetanus by 83 per cent.
He also said that a proportion of the 47 per cent reduction in pneumonia deaths and 57 per cent reduction in diarrhoea deaths at this period was attributed to vaccines.
“Yet an estimated 19.4 million children around the world still miss out on full vaccinations every year. Around two thirds of all unvaccinated children live in conflict-affected countries.
“Weak health systems, poverty and social inequities also mean that 1 in 5 children under -five is still not reached with life-saving vaccines.
“All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, have the right to survive and thrive, safe from deadly diseases,’’ he said.
Nandy emphasised that since 1990, immunisation has been a major reason for the substantial drop in child mortality, but despite this progress, 1.5 million children still die from vaccine preventable diseases every year.
He further noted that in countries where 80 per cent of the world’s under-five child deaths occur, over half of the poorest children are not fully vaccinated.
The chief of communication decried that globally, the poorest children are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five as the richest.
NAN reports that world immunisation week, which is commemorated from April 24 to April 30, was aimed at raising awareness on the critical importance of full immunisation throughout life and its role in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.