COVID-19 caused significant declines in regular vitamin A supplementation for young children in 2020: What is next?

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  • Service disruptions caused significant declines in coverage of vitamin A supplementation in 2020.

  • The largest declines were in the first half of the year, following widespread suspension of mass campaigns.

  • Countries with the highest child mortality, and therefore the greatest need for supplementation, had the lowest coverage in 2020, reversing the situation in 2019.

  • In the context of COVID-19, vitamin A supplementation delivery through routine systems was more resilient than delivery in campaigns.

  • To regain lost coverage and move towards universal coverage, countries must strengthen delivery systems with a renewed impetus to reach children most at risk.

In efforts to restrict the spread of SARS-CoV-2, many low-income and middle-income countries suspended community-based public health and nutrition programmes in early 2020. At the time, the expectation was that disruptions due to the COVID-19 response would cause significant declines in programme coverage of key services, and eventually increase preventable morbidity and mortality among the most vulnerable children.1 The magnitude of the pandemic’s impact on preventive vitamin A supplementation (VAS) programmes is now made visible in UNICEF’s annual programme coverage data.

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