The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Immunization Campaigns and Programs: A Systematic Review

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on health service delivery, including immunization programs, and this review assesses the impact on vaccine coverage across the globe and identifies the potential underlying factors. A systematic search strategy was employed on PubMed, Embase, MedRxiv, BioRxiv, and WHO COVID-19 databases from December 2019 till 15 September 2020. Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion, assessed quality, and extracted the data (PROSPERO registration #CRD42020182363). A total of 17 observational studies were included. The findings suggest that there was a reduction in the vaccination coverage and decline in total number of vaccines administered, which led to children missing out on their vaccine doses. An approximately fourfold increase was also observed in polio cases in polio endemic countries. Factors contributing to low vaccine coverage included fear of being exposed to the virus at health care facilities, restriction on city-wide movements, shortage of workers, and diversion of resources from child health to address the pandemic. As the world re-strategizes for the post-2020 era, we should not let a crisis go to waste as they provide an opportunity to establish guidelines and allocate resources for future instances. High-quality supplementary immunization activities and catch-up programs need to be established to address gaps during the pandemic era.

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