WHO says 40 million children are susceptible to measles

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About 40 million children are at risk of measles infections due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.

Published Wednesday on the official WHO website, the report revealed that in 2021, a record nearly 40 million children missed a dose of the measles vaccine, of whom 25 million missed their first dose and others 14.7 million did not receive their second dose.

“This decline is a significant setback in global progress in achieving and sustaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection,” the report noted, adding that there were an estimated 9 million cases and 128,000 deaths from the measles. measles worldwide in 2021.

It also suggested that declines in vaccination coverage weakened measles surveillance, and continued disruptions and delays in immunization activities due to COVID-19, “mean that measles is an imminent threat in all regions of the world.”

“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and implemented in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programs were severely disrupted and millions of children missed the shots against deadly diseases that saved their lives. like measles,” said WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

He added that “restarting immunization programs is essential. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease.”

Coverage, global action

The report further described measles as the most contagious human virus, but it is almost completely preventable through vaccination, adding that “95 percent coverage or more than two doses of vaccine is needed to create herd immunity that will protect communities and maintain measles elimination.

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He noted that global coverage rates are at their lowest levels since 2008, with only 81% of children receiving their first dose of measles vaccine, and only 71% of children receiving their second dose of measles vaccine.

The report warned that measles anywhere is a threat everywhere, as the virus can spread rapidly to multiple communities and across international borders and no WHO region has achieved and sustained measles elimination.

“The record number of children undervaccinated and susceptible to measles shows the profound damage that immunization systems have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

“Measles outbreaks illustrate the weaknesses of immunization programs, but public health officials can use the outbreak response to identify communities at risk, understand the causes of non-vaccination, and help provide locally tailored solutions to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone,” he added.

The report urged public health officials to speed up and strengthen vaccination efforts, noting that “measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunization programs and other essential health services. To mitigate the risk of outbreaks, countries and global stakeholders need to invest in robust surveillance systems.”

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