WHO decries drop in measles vaccination, warns disease remains global threat

The World Health Organisation has expressed concern over the decline in measles vaccination coverage globally, lamenting that measles cases in 2022 have increased by 18 per cent.

The global health body in a joint report with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also raised the alarm that the deaths from measles have increased by 43 per cent globally compared to 2021.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious airborne disease caused by a virus that can lead to severe complications and death.

It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. It can cause severe disease, complications, and even death.

According to the WHO, measles vaccination averted 56 million deaths being between 2000 and 2021.

While lamenting that measles continues to pose a relentlessly increasing threat to children, the report noted that in 2022, 37 countries experienced large or disruptive measles outbreaks compared with 22 countries in 2021.

According to the report of the countries experiencing outbreaks, 28 were in the WHO Region for Africa, six in the Eastern Mediterranean, two in South-East Asia, and one in the European Region.

The director of CDC’s Global Immunisation Division, John Vertefeuille in the report, blamed the increase in measles outbreaks and deaths for the decline in vaccination.

He added, “The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years.

“Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”

WHO Director for Immunisation, Vaccine and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien also noted, “The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries following the pandemic is an alarm bell for action.

“Measles is called the inequity virus for good reason. It is the disease that will find and attack those who aren’t protected.

“Children everywhere have the right to be protected by the lifesaving measles vaccine, no matter where they live.”

The report stressed that measles is preventable with two doses of measles vaccine.

It further said, “While a modest increase in global vaccination coverage occurred in 2022 from 2021, there were still 33 million children who missed a measles vaccine dose: nearly 22 million missed their first dose and an additional 11 million missed their second dose.

“The global vaccine coverage rate of the first dose, at 83 per cent, and second dose, at 74 per cent, were still well under the 95 per cent coverage with two doses that is necessary to protect communities from outbreaks.

“Low-income countries, where the risk of death from measles is highest, continue to have the lowest vaccination rates at only 66 percent; a rate that shows no recovery at all from the backsliding during the pandemic.

“Of the 22 million children who missed their first measles vaccine dose in 2022, over half live in just 10 countries: Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Philippines.

“CDC and WHO urge countries to find and vaccinate all children against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, and encourage global stakeholders to aid countries to vaccinate their most vulnerable communities.

“In addition, to help prevent outbreaks, all global health partners at the global, regional, national, and local levels must invest in robust surveillance systems and outbreak response capacity to rapidly detect and respond to outbreaks.”


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