A recent report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shed light on a concerning global trend: the number of measles deaths has risen by 43% from 2021 to 2022. This stark increase comes after years of declining vaccination rates worldwide, signaling a critical public health issue that demands immediate attention.
The report highlights that in 2022 alone, 37 countries experienced significant measles outbreaks, compared to 22 countries in the previous year. Among the affected nations, 28 were located in the WHO Region for Africa, while the remaining outbreaks were reported in the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and the European Region. The rise in measles cases and fatalities is distressing but not unexpected, given the decline in vaccination rates observed over the past few years.
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads through respiratory droplets from infected individuals. It can lead to severe complications and even death. However, this disease is preventable through vaccination, with two doses of the measles vaccine being highly effective. Unfortunately, the report reveals that approximately 33 million children worldwide did not receive the necessary vaccine doses in 2022. Out of these, nearly 22 million missed their first dose, and an additional 11 million missed their second dose.
To make matters worse, global vaccination coverage stood at a mere 83% for the first dose and 74% for the second dose in 2022. Both figures fall significantly short of the critical threshold of 95% required to protect communities from measles outbreaks. Particularly worrisome is the situation in low-income countries, which experience the highest measles mortality rates. These nations continue to struggle with persistently low vaccination rates, reaching only 66%.
Within this distressing context, the report draws attention to the plight of 22 million children who missed their initial measles vaccine dose in 2022. A significant portion of these children resides in ten countries, namely Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines. WHO Director for Immunization, Vaccine, and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien, warns that the lack of improvement in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries post-pandemic highlights the disturbing reality of measles as the “inequity virus,” disproportionately affecting those without adequate protection.
Urgent and targeted action is needed to address these disparities and ensure comprehensive measles vaccination coverage worldwide. Global collaboration and concerted efforts are necessary to bridge the gaps and safeguard vulnerable populations from the devastating consequences of measles. As O’Brien emphasizes, every child deserves the right to be protected by the life-saving measles vaccine, regardless of their geographical location.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What causes measles?
Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus that spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected individual breathes, coughs, or sneezes.
Is measles preventable?
Yes, measles is preventable with two doses of the measles vaccine. Vaccination is highly effective in reducing the risk of infection and severe complications.
Why are declining vaccination rates a concern?
Declining vaccination rates contribute to increased measles outbreaks and deaths. When fewer people are vaccinated, the overall population immunity decreases, making it easier for the virus to spread and infect vulnerable individuals.
What is the global vaccination coverage for measles?
According to the report, global vaccination coverage for the first dose of the measles vaccine was at 83%, while coverage for the second dose stood at 74% in 2022. Both figures fall significantly below the critical threshold of 95% needed to protect communities from measles outbreaks.
Which countries are most affected by low measles vaccination rates?
Low-income countries, such as Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines, continue to grapple with persistently low measles vaccination rates, putting their populations at a higher risk of measles-related complications and mortality.