An estimated 17 million children did not receive a single vaccine to prevent disease in 2020. These children, known as “zero-dose children,” are more likely to suffer from illness and die. A majority of these children live in vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities that lack health services. While efforts to reach these children with vaccines for such life threatening diseases as diphtheria and pertussis have improved significantly over the past 20 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously eroded these gains.
“COVID took us back 15 years,” said Chizoba Wonodi, Director of Immunization for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership project. “Zero dose really is a reflection of our failure to reach vulnerable communities with services. It is a social justice issue. We are not doing what we ought to do, giving what we know that vaccines are tremendously beneficial. We know vaccines save lives.”
Wonodi joined a distinguished panel of experts to discuss the issue of zero-dose children in a recent webinar on how to identify and reach these children. The participants on the USAID-funded webinar are:
- Folake Olayinka, Immunization Team Lead at USAID
- Christopher Morgan, Senior Technical Advisor for Immunization, MOMENTUM Private Healthcare Delivery
- Jessica Shearer, Measurement, Evaluation, and Learning Lead, MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity
- Lora Shimp, Immunization Technical Lead, MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience
- Chizoba Wonodi, Director of Immunization, MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership
Morgan said reducing the number of zero-dose children requires tailoring immunization services closer to those families and communities that were not being reached. Olayinka, from USAID, said the goal is for these children “not to just survive but thrive and live a long life.”
Listen to the panelists’ discussion here.