MADRID, (.) – The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that, after years of declines in measles vaccination coverage, measles cases in 2022 have increased by 18 percent and deaths by 43 percent. percent globally, compared to 2021.
These figures bring the estimated number of measles cases to nine million and deaths to 136,000 (mostly among children), according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. of Diseases (CDC) of the United States.
Measles continues to pose an increasing threat to children. In 2022, 37 countries experienced major or disruptive measles outbreaks, compared to 22 countries in 2021. Of the countries that experienced outbreaks, 28 were in the WHO African Region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean, two in Southeast Asia and one in the European Region.
“The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately not unexpected given the decline in vaccination rates we have seen in recent years,” said CDC Director of the Division of Global Immunization John Vertefeuille. .
“Measles cases anywhere represent a risk for all countries and communities where people are not sufficiently vaccinated. Urgent and targeted efforts are essential to prevent disease and deaths from measles,” he adds.
Measles can be prevented with two doses of measles vaccine. While 2022 saw a modest increase in global vaccination coverage over 2021, there were still 33 million children who missed a dose of measles vaccine: nearly 22 million missed their first dose and another 11 million missed their second dose.
The global vaccination coverage rate for the first dose of 83 percent and the second dose of 74 percent was still well below the 95 percent two-dose coverage needed to protect outbreak communities.
Low-income countries, where the risk of death from measles is highest, continue to have the lowest vaccination rates, at just 66 percent, a rate that shows no recovery from the decline during the pandemic. Of the 22 million children who did not receive their first dose of measles vaccine in 2022, more than half live in just 10 countries: Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines.
“The lack of recovery of measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries after the pandemic is a warning signal to act. Measles is called the virus of inequity for good reason: it is the disease that will find and attack those who are not protected,” says WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien.
In this sense, the expert points out that “children around the world have the right to be protected by the measles vaccine, which will save their lives, no matter where they live.”
In this context, CDC and WHO urge countries to find and vaccinate all children against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases and encourage global stakeholders to help countries vaccinate their most vulnerable communities. Additionally, to help prevent outbreaks, all global health partners at global, regional, national and local levels must invest in robust surveillance systems and outbreak response capacity to quickly detect and respond to outbreaks.