TUESDAY, Aug. 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Countries with greater progress toward universal health coverage (UHC) had smaller declines in childhood immunization during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Aug. 16 in PLOS Medicine.

Sooyoung Kim, from New York University in New York City, and colleagues used a quasi-experimental difference-in-difference methodology to quantify the relationship between UHC and childhood immunization coverage. The analysis included 195 World Health Organization member states and their ability to provide 12 of 14 childhood vaccines between 2010 and 2020. Countries were divided into a high UHC index group (UHC Service Coverage Index [SCI] ≥80) and the rest. The study included 20,230 country-year observations.

The researchers found that compared with countries with a UHC index <80, countries with a high UHC index had a 2.70 percent smaller reduction in childhood immunization coverage during the pandemic year of 2020. At the lower cutoff value of UHC SCI <50, the relationship became nonsignificant.

“Our study provides preliminary evidence on the role of UHC in supporting countries’ ability to deliver essential health services in the face of external shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic and sets the stage for future research in this area,” the authors write. “Our findings strongly suggest that policymakers should continue to advocate for policies aimed at achieving UHC in coming years.”

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