World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Wednesday (local time) that measles immunization had dropped significantly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a record number of nearly 40 million children missing a dose of the vaccine last year.
“There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading to different regions around the world, as COVID-19 has led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and a decline in disease control,” WHO and CDC said in a joint report.
Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost completely preventable by vaccination. However, it requires 95% vaccination coverage to prevent community outbreaks.
“A record number of nearly 40 million children missed a dose of measles vaccine in 2021,” reads the joint report.
WHO’s measles chief, WHO has already recorded an increase in widespread disruptive outbreaks since the start of 2022, from 19 to nearly 30 in September. Patrick O’Connor said, adding that he was particularly concerned about parts of sub-Saharan Africa, reported US Today.
Millions of children were now exposed to measles, one of the world’s most contagious diseases. According to the authorities, in 2021 there were approximately nine million measles infections and 128,000 deaths in the world.
The WHO and CDC said continued vaccination drops, poor disease surveillance and delayed response plans due to COVID-19, as well as ongoing outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mean that “measles is an imminent threat in all regions of the world.”
More than 95 percent of measles deaths occur in developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. There is no specific treatment for measles, but the two-dose vaccine against it is about 97 percent effective in preventing serious illness and death.
In July, the UN reported that 25 million children have missed out on routine vaccinations against diseases including diphtheria, largely because the coronavirus disrupted routine health services or triggered vaccine misinformation.