As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing inequities in health and underscores the impact of global health outcomes on the other 16 SDGs, we are called upon to urgently scale up implementation of SDG 3: ‘To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.’ Securing equitable access and utilization of immunization services is a critical component of a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19. It is particularly vital to achieving an inclusive and effective path forward on achieving the SDGs’ ambition by 2030, Universal Health Coverage and the Immunization Agenda 2030.
Over the past two decades we have seen extraordinary progress in reducing the vaccination gap between lower-income and higher-income countries. Despite this progress, millions of children are still being left behind. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended lifesaving routine immunization programmes with the potential to further deepen immunity gaps and reverse decades of progress in increasing child survival. During the pandemic, more children are missing out on the vaccines necessary for the control and elimination of some of the deadliest childhood diseases, including Measles, than at any other time in recent history. Over 50 countries are delaying or cancelling routine infant immunization activities. The pandemic has also accelerated worrisome trends in vaccine hesitancy and caregiver refusal to have their children vaccinated. The long-term consequences for the children and societies affected include losses in education, livelihoods, health system strengthening, and security causing wide-spread outbreaks and setbacks in the implementation of Agenda 2030.