Women's Health

Countries with universal health care had better childhood immunization rates during the pandemic


By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter
health day reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Countries that are close to achieving universal health coverage have seen lower declines in routine childhood immunizations during the pandemic, a new study finds.

The World Health Organization describes universal health coverage as “all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship”.

The researchers were able to use the pandemic as a “natural experiment” to compare differences in childhood immunization coverage based on countries’ progress towards universal health coverage.

“Our findings strongly suggest that policy makers should continue to advocate for policies aimed at achieving universal health coverage in the years to come,” said the study authors, including Yesim Tozan, assistant professor at the School of New York University Global Public Health.

“This study also paves the way for future research to understand the synergistic impact of investments in global health security and universal health coverage strategies on the resilience of countries’ health systems,” they said.

The team used immunization data from WHO/UNICEF, which includes information on 195 countries and 14 childhood vaccines between 1997 and 2020.

The study also used the 2019 Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Service Coverage Index, a measure that represents the level of coverage.

Countries that had a high UHC index were associated with a 2.7% lower decline in childhood immunization coverage in 2020 compared to countries with a lower UHC index.

Before the pandemic, countries with a high UHC index had an average childhood vaccination coverage rate of 92.7%. In comparison, those with a lower UHC index had a coverage rate of 86.2%.

In 2020, the coverage rate was 91.9% in high UHC countries, while it was 81.7% in low UHC countries.

The results were published on August 16 in the journal OLP Medicine .

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the delivery of essential health services in every country around the world,” Tozan said in a press release. “This study has provided much-needed quantitative evidence of the protective effects of universal health coverage in times of public health crisis.”

More information

The World Health Organization says more about universal health coverage.

THE SOURCE: OLP Medicinepress release, August 16, 2022

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