UNICEF said that India has the highest number of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated children worldwide at 3.5 million. A rise of 1.4 million was reported from 2019 amid the Coronavirus pandemic. It also cited that more than 3 million of “zero-dose children” lived in India in 2020. 

With around 4.4 million, South Asia reported the highest number of children who failed to get any routine vaccination in the past ten years, in 2020. 

There are over 3 million of these 'zero-dose children' in 2020 who live in India, said the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund,(UNICEF) in a statement.

The International Organisation said that the data shows that globally only 10 countries account for 62 per cent of under-or unvaccinated children.

“India - particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic - had the highest number of unprotected children worldwide at 3.5 million, an increase of 1.4 million compared with 2019, when the number of unprotected children was 2.1 million,” the global children's body said.

Vulnerable children are those who are unvaccinated (no vaccine) or under-vaccinated (incomplete vaccination), this means that any kid who has not got the vaccination or their dose for the vaccination is due. 

Pakistan had 1.3 million unprotected children in 2020 which is an increase of 0.4 million. 

"Most of these children did not receive a single vaccine during the year, an indication that the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach children are paying the steepest price for pandemic-related disruptions to vaccine access," the body's statement read.

Observing that a majority of South Asian nations have seen reduced childhood vaccination rates, the UNICEF said the ratio for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine diminished by 9 per cent points in Nepal; 7 per cent points in Pakistan; 6 per cent points in India; 3 per cent points in Sri Lanka; and 2 per cent points in Bhutan and Afghanistan.

The body's statement further stated, "However, robust recovery efforts mounted in many countries towards the end of the year helped to blunt the impacts of overall declines. In India, for example, vaccination drives in remote areas are helping to reach missed children." 

Yasumasa Kimura, Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Representative programmes, UNICEF India said, “While the health systems are strained by the Covid-19 response, we must be cautious in our fight against the pandemic so as not to interfere with decades of gains against other preventable diseases."

Losing on the standard immunisation is unaffordable and allowing children not to get vaccinated for preventable illness will expose children's health to danger, he added. 

“UNICEF is partnering with the Government of India to support continuity of essential health and immunisation services through planning, implementation, and monitoring of various strategies to identify and vaccinate missed children."

He further said that the organisation supports generating awareness and confidence among communities to vaccinate their children. It is also working towards strengthening the cold chain for routine immunisation, he informed. 

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