Declining confidence in childhood vaccines is not just an issue in the U.S., as a UNICEF report found that public perception of childhood vaccines declined in 52 out of 55 nations studied.
Only three of the nations studied — China, India and Mexico — experienced an increase in childhood vaccine confidence after the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to before.
The study noted that vaccine confidence in the United States dropped by about 15 percentage points to 79% after the pandemic. Several East Asia nations, such as Japan and South Korea, had the largest declines in childhood vaccine confidence. The UNICEF report indicates that childhood vaccine confidence in South Korea has been cut nearly in half to 48%.
The UNICEF report also indicated steeper declines in vaccine confidence among adults under age 35 than those over age 65.
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"At the height of the pandemic, scientists rapidly developed vaccines that saved countless lives. But despite this historic achievement, fear and disinformation about all types of vaccines circulated as widely as the virus itself," said Catherine Russell, UNICEF executive director. "This data is a worrying warning signal."
Additionally, the report found that 67 million children worldwide missed out on routine vaccines between 2019 and 2021. With that, several largely preventable diseases saw gains in 2022. UNICEF reported a 16% increase in 2022 in the number of children paralyzed with polio. The agency also noted the number of measles cases worldwide doubled in 2022.
UNICEF said governments must take "urgent" action to get these children caught up.
The agency issued four recommendations to governments to address the issue:
- Urgently identify and reach all children, especially those who missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Strengthen demand for vaccines, including by building confidence
- Prioritize funding to immunization services and primary health care
- Build resilient health systems through investment in female health workers, innovation and local manufacturing
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