Measles outbreaks now a global threat due to vaccine hesitancyNovember 24, 2022
The hesitancy to vaccinate children against measles resulted in a significant setback in global progress towards achieving and maintaining the viral infection.
As per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest report, a “record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose” – 25 million missed their first dose and an additional 14.7 million missed their second dose.
WHO said millions of children are now susceptible to infection, and with 9 million cases and 128 000 deaths worldwide, it’s now considered a global threat.
Cases were reported in 22 countries this year alone, with the biggest outbreak in India (9 498).
Somalia currently has 8 435 cases, followed by Yemen with 6 478 and Zimbabwe with 5 094, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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Several factors contributed to the spreading of the threat, such as:
- Weakened measles surveillance.
- Declines in vaccine coverage.
- Continued interruptions and delays due to Covid-19.
- The severity of the measles outbreaks in 2022.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday the routine immunisation programmes were neglected during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against Covid-19 were developed and deployed in record time – the largest vaccination campaign in history – routine immunisation programmes were badly disrupted.”
“In 2021, nearly 61 million measles vaccine doses were postponed or missed due to Covid-19-related delays” in 18 countries.
Due to this, “millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations”, and the focus should now shift to getting immunisation programmes back on track.
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“It is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease,” Ghebreyesus said.
Even though measles is considered as “one of the most contagious human viruses”, WHO said it is “almost entirely preventable through vaccination”.
Urgent global action needed
WHO warns that the “threat is everywhere as the virus can quickly spread 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 experienced outbreaks and reestablished transmission.”
CDC and WHO call for coordinated and collaborative action to prioritise immunisation efforts of all unprotected children.
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Compiled by Cheryl Kahla