Measles Cases and Deaths Surge Globally, Urgent Action Needed to Protect Children
According to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles cases, deaths, and outbreaks have seen a significant increase worldwide between 2021 and 2022. The report reveals that the estimated number of measles cases rose by 18%, from 7.8 million in 2021 to 9.2 million in 2022.
Even more alarming is the fact that measles deaths increased by 43%, from 95,000 in 2021 to 136,200 in 2022. This surge in fatalities is a clear indication that measles remains a grave threat to public health.
The report also states that the number of countries reporting large or disruptive outbreaks of measles rose by 68%, from 22 to 37. This rise in outbreaks highlights the urgent need for targeted efforts to control the spread of the disease.
One of the major contributors to the increase in measles cases and deaths is the decline in vaccination rates, especially in low-income countries. This decline in rates has been observed even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been exacerbated by the global health crisis.
The report highlights that coverage with the first dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine globally has risen from 72% in 2000 to 86% in 2019. However, due to the pandemic, this coverage fell to 83% in 2020 and 81% in 2021. While global coverage has slightly increased to 83% in 2022, low-income countries are still experiencing a decline in vaccination rates, with coverage dropping from 71% in 2019 to 66% in 2022.
Worryingly, over half of the 22 million children who missed their first MMR vaccine dose in 2022 live in 10 countries, including Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines. This lack of access to vaccinations puts these children at significant risk.
To prevent future outbreaks, it is crucial to achieve a vaccination coverage rate of 95% for both the first and second doses of the MMR vaccine. However, the current decline in vaccination rates poses a great concern that must be addressed urgently.
The report stresses the need for immediate action to protect children worldwide and prevent the further spread of measles. Efforts must be made to ensure that low-income countries have access to vaccines and that vaccination campaigns are robust and effective. The failure to recover measles vaccine coverage in these countries is deeply troubling and requires the attention of global health organizations, governments, and the international community.
In conclusion, the rise in measles cases, deaths, and outbreaks globally is a concerning trend that demands immediate action. Vaccination coverage, particularly in low-income countries, needs to be prioritized and improved to prevent further devastation caused by this highly contagious disease. The world cannot afford to let measles claim more lives, and protecting children through accessible and equitable vaccination programs is crucial.
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