Overall decline in the percentage of children and adolescents vaccinated in 2020, recovery in 2021 but still below WHO recommended coverage. Only Lazio hits the target for all mandatory vaccines
Due to the pandemic, not only exams, visits, scheduled surgeries, cancer screenings have been skipped, but compulsory and recommended pediatric vaccinations have also dropped, offered free of charge by the National Health Service to protect children and adolescents from infectious diseases. Based on the data of Report of the GIMBE Foundation Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric vaccination coverage, which analyzed i data published by the Ministry of Health
for many vaccines, the coverage recommended by the World Health Organization is not achieved in all regions. Only Lazio, according to Gimbe’s analysis, for all mandatory vaccinations achieves the goal of 95 percent, which is the threshold recommended by the World Health Organization to guarantee immunity (so-called “herd”) in the population, this is to indirectly protect even those who, for health reasons, cannot be vaccinated.
Mandatory and recommended vaccinations
The WHO had reiterated that, even in times of Covid-19, ordinary vaccinations were among the priority health services to be guaranteed, since even temporary interruptions and delays can lead to a drop in vaccination coverage below 95%.
In our country in force since 2017 the add n. 119 which made ten vaccinations (free) mandatory in childhood and adolescence to counteract the drop in vaccination coverage that has occurred in recent years, namely: anti-polio, anti-diphtheria, anti-tetanus, anti-hepatitis B, anti-pertussis, anti -Haemophilus influenzae type b, anti-measles, anti-rubella, anti-mumps, anti-chickenpox.
Furthermore, four vaccinations are recommended and always offered free of charge by the Regions: anti-meningococcal B, anti-meningococcal C, anti-pneumococcal, anti-rotavirus.
We carried out a study with the primary objective of evaluating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 24-month coverage of mandatory and recommended vaccinations explains Nino Cartabellotta, president of the GIMBE Foundation. Analyzing the data published by the Ministry of Health, the researchers carried out a comparison of vaccination coverage in 2020 (compared to 2019) and 2021 (compared to 2020) in order to assess the impact of the pandemic on vaccination coverage, compared to the following vaccines :
•Anti-polio, used as a representative indicator for all vaccines contained in the hexavalent formulation, which includes anti-polio, anti-diphtheria, anti-tetanus, anti-pertussis, anti-hepatitis B, anti-haemophilus influenzae B; •Anti-measles, used as a representative indicator for all vaccines contained in the trivalent formulation: anti-measles, anti-mumps, anti-rubella;
For the age group considered (24 months), the targets recommended by the 2017-2019 National Vaccine Prevention Plan were used, i.e. a coverage equal to or greater than 95 per cent for all vaccinations, with the exception of the anti-rotavirus ( 75% in 2019 and 95% from 2020).
Decline in vaccinations in 2020, but recovery in 2021
Well, in 2020, compared to 2019, there is a marked reduction in coverage for measles vaccination in 18 Regions; for the anti-polio vaccine, there was a reduction in the percentage of vaccinated people in 14 Regions; coverage for varicella vaccination decreases in 11 Regions. A general reduction in anti-pneumococcal and anti-meningococcal B coverage was also observed, while anti-rotavirus vaccination went against the trend with an increase in vaccinated people in all Regions. In 2021 the situation improves compared to 2020, with a general increase in coverage at national level. Lazio reaches the targets for all three mandatory vaccinations. Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Umbria and Veneto meet the targets set for polio and measles vaccines, but not for the varicella vaccine. Campania, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Molise reach the recommended targets only for the anti-polio vaccine. For recommended vaccinations, the situation is very heterogeneous, both between vaccines and between regions.
The vaccination services held up
Cartabellotta observes: If already in 2019 public vaccination programs showed difficulties in reaching the recommended targets due to vaccination hesitancy, the COVID-19 pandemic – with the inevitable reorganization of services, limited access to health facilities and fear of possible contagion – had a significant impact on pediatric vaccination coverage. However, the extent of their reduction in 2020 and the rapid recovery in 2021 show that the vaccination services of the area have adequately handled the emergency, managing to guarantee continuity of service in most regions.
August 2, 2023 (change August 2, 2023 | 16:52)
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