From: Alice Taylor
Albania’s Vaccine Hesitancy Issue Visible in Decline of Childhood Innoculations

According to the Albanian Institute of Statistics, a continuing decline in MMR vaccine administration was observed in 2020.

While vaccinations given at birth remained high and mainly above 98%, they were also declining based on figures from previous years. For example, vaccinations against tuberculosis dropped to 97.9% in 2020 from 99.1% in 2018. Tetanus dropped from 99.8% to 98.5% during the same period, and hepatitis B from 99.8% to 98.5%.

The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, given between 12 and 18 months, has a 91% uptake. This has decreased from 94.1%, which was registered in 2018. While it’s still in line with World Health Organization recommendations, a further decline could jeopardize herd immunity.

While the decline could be partly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, it forms a part of a steady decrease observed over the last few years.

Reasons for the decline could be attributed to persistent misinformation around the vaccine, including claims it causes autism. The vaccine does not cause autism and is considered safe and essential for all children.

Vaccination rates for pneumococcus have also fallen by 6.1 percentage points since 2018, to just 92.4%. The pneumococcus bacteria can cause many types of infection, some of which are fatal, particularly to infants.

Falling vaccination rates and growing distrust of science are also evidenced by the country’s slow uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines. Despite vaccines being widely available to those that want them, the vaccination rate is around 26%. Since January, the Albanian government has been vaccinating people with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and some Sputnik.

Childhood vaccines are mandatory for attending public and some private educational institutions. The COVID-19 vaccine is compulsory for some public administration workers, teachers, police officers, healthcare workers, and students over 18.