Saturday, December 5

Measles out of control: deaths increase 50% in four years

A child with measles.

A child with measles.

The spread of measles has worsened around the world and the deaths it causes, totally preventable through vaccination, have increased by 50% since 2016 up to a total of 207,500 deaths, revealed today the World Health Organization (WHO).

The trend has been clear for five years and it is feared that the covid-19 pandemic will make things worse since it has forced the interruption of vaccination campaigns in 26 countries and has delayed them in dozens of nations.

Based on the figures for the last two weeks, 94 million people are at risk of not being vaccinated this year against measles.

Of the countries that interrupted their immunization plans, only eight have resumed them: Brazil, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Nepal, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

The WHO published the most recent data on the evolution of measles, an eextremely contagious disease that threatens children under five years of age most seriously.

Almost 870,000 cases in 2019

Full 2019 statistics reveal that the cases were nearly 870,000, the highest number reported since 1996.

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Georgia, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Ukraine and Somalia These are the nine countries that have registered 73% of world cases when recently registering serious epidemic outbreaks.

The increase in cases has been registered in all regions of the world and represents a sharp setback compared to the progress that had been made in bringing this infectious viral disease under control, for which there is an effective vaccine that requires two doses.

A vaccine available

It is a vaccine that is part of the vaccination programs in practically all countries, despite which the coverage of the first dose is currently 85% and has remained at that level for more than ten years, while that of the second dose has fallen to 71%.

So that measles does not spread vaccination rate must be 95% or more.

Natasha Crowcrift, a WHO expert, explained at a press conference in Geneva that there is a “cumulative effect” of children who go unvaccinated each year and, although it is still too early to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic , there are enough reasons to fear that many have not received their due vaccination due to the current health crisis.

High risk for children

According to Crowcrift, the main cause of the setback experienced in recent years is the weak health systems of many countries, which are not able to reach all children who need to be vaccinated.

It is precisely the countries that already accumulated delays that will have the least possibility of updating their routine immunization plans once the pandemic is over.

With these worrying data in hand, WHO has warned that measles vaccination must be resumed in all countries where it is interrupted and this before travel restrictions due to covid-19 are lifted.

When mobility returns to normal, the risk of measles crossing borders will increase.

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