LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say measles vaccinations have dropped dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a record near 40 million children missing a dose of vaccine last year.
In a report released Wednesday, the WHO and CDC said millions of children are now susceptible to measles, one of the world’s most contagious diseases. In 2021, officials said there were around 9 million measles infections and 128,000 deaths worldwide.
The WHO and CDC said continued declines in vaccination, weak disease surveillance and delayed response plans due to COVID-19, in addition to ongoing outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mean that “the measles is an imminent threat in all regions of the world.”
Scientists estimate that at least 95% of a population must be immunized to protect against epidemics; WHO and CDC reported that only about 81% of children receive their first dose of measles vaccine while 71% receive their second dose, marking the lowest global coverage rates of first dose measles since 2008.
“The record number of children who are underimmunized and susceptible to measles shows the profound damage immunization systems have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. .
Measles is spread mainly by direct contact or through the air and causes symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and a rash on the face and upper neck. Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications, including brain swelling and dehydration. The WHO says serious complications are more severe in children under five and adults over 30.
More than 95% of measles deaths occur in developing countries, mainly in Africa and Asia. There is no specific treatment for measles, but the two-dose measles vaccine is about 97% effective in preventing serious illness and death.
In July, the UN said 25 million children had missed routine vaccinations against diseases such as diphtheria, largely because the coronavirus had disrupted routine health services or sparked misinformation about vaccines. .
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