Vaccine misinformation, limited availability and inadequate access to services have left large numbers of children in jeopardy, prompting the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to convene a high-level UN event to “tackle the issue”.
According to UNICEF, anti-vaccine groups "have effectively exploited social media, creating confusion and stoking fears among parents, potentially undermining progress in reaching all children with vaccines”.
“Misinformation about vaccines is as dangerous as a disease,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “It spreads fast and poses an imminent threat to public health.”
Access to quality primary healthcare, including immunisation, is greatly undermined by weak health systems, poverty and conflict, it also noted.
At the first event of its kind at UN Headquarters in New York last week, experts analysed how to improve vaccination rates and champion children’s right to immunisation.
While vaccinations save up to three million lives annually, “20 million children are still missing out", noted Fore.
UNICEF stressed that countries’ investment in domestic resources and political commitment to immunisation is “an entry point to strengthen primary health care”, which is also central to ensuring universal health coverage.
The UN agency also advocated for a dialogue platform on ways to reverse declining vaccination rates, build broad-based public trust and demand for immunisation.