WHO, CDC worry as 40m children dangerously susceptible to measles threat

Measles vaccination coverage has steadily declined, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO.

In 2021, nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose; 25 million children missed their first dose of the measles vaccine and an additional 14.7 million children missed their second dose, according to a joint publication by the WHO and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The decline is a significant setback in global progress toward achieving and maintaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection.

In 2021, the WHO argues, there were an estimated 9 million cases and 128,000 deaths from measles worldwide. At least 22 countries experienced large and disruptive outbreaks.

Declines in vaccine coverage weakened measles surveillance and continued interruptions and delays in immunisation activities due to COVID-19, as well as persistent large outbreaks in 2022, mean that measles is an imminent threat in every region of the world.

In the views of the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunisation programmes were badly disrupted, and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles.

“Getting immunization programmes back on track is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease.”

The situation is grave: measles is one of the most contagious human viruses but is almost entirely preventable through vaccination.

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