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40 Million Children Face Growing Threat of Measles

40 Million Children Face Growing Threat of Measles

Measles vaccination coverage has steadily declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a record nearly 40 million children missed a dose of the measles vaccine: 25 million children missed their first dose and another 14.7 million missed their second dose, according to a joint publication by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States.

Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This decline is a major setback in global progress in achieving and sustaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection.

Deaths from measles

In 2021, there were an estimated 9 million cases and 128,000 deaths from measles worldwide. Twenty-two countries experienced large and disruptive outbreaks. Declining vaccination coverage, weakening measles surveillance, and continued interruptions and delays in immunization activities due to COVID-19, as well as continuing large outbreaks in 2022, mean that measles is an imminent threat in all regions of the world.

“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and implemented in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programs were severely disrupted and millions of children missed the shots against deadly diseases that saved their lives. like measles,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Getting immunization programs up and running is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease.”

The situation is serious: measles is one of the most contagious human viruses, but it is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. Coverage of 95% or more of 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed to build herd immunity to protect communities and achieve and sustain measles elimination.

The world is well below that, with only 81% of children receiving their first dose of measles-containing vaccine, and only 71% of children receiving their second dose of measles-containing vaccine. These are the lowest global coverage rates for the first dose of measles vaccination since 2008, although coverage varies by country.

Urgent global action is needed

Measles Anywhere is a threat everywhere, as the virus can spread rapidly to multiple communities and across international borders. No WHO region has achieved and sustained measles elimination. Since 2016, ten countries that had previously eliminated measles have experienced outbreaks and re-established transmission.

“The record number of children undervaccinated and susceptible to measles shows the profound damage that immunization systems have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. “Measles outbreaks illustrate the weaknesses of immunization programs, but public health officials can use the outbreak response to identify communities at risk, understand the causes of non-vaccination, and help provide locally tailored solutions to ensure make vaccines available to everyone.”

Measles vaccine were postponed

In 2021, nearly 61 million doses of measles vaccine were postponed or lost due to COVID-19-related delays in immunization campaigns in 18 countries. Delays increase the risk of measles outbreaks, so now is the time for public health officials to speed up vaccination efforts and strengthen surveillance. CDC and WHO urge coordinated and collaborative action by all partners at the global, regional, national, and local levels to prioritize efforts to find and immunize all unprotected children, including those who have been lost within the past two years.

Measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunization programs and other essential health services. To mitigate the risk of outbreaks, countries and global stakeholders need to invest in robust surveillance systems. Under the global immunization strategy of the 2030 Immunization Agenda, global immunization partners remain committed to supporting investments to strengthen surveillance as a means to detect outbreaks quickly, respond urgently, and immunize all remaining children. they are not protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

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