The global threat of measles has become worse after 22 million babies missed their vaccinations because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday (10 Nov).
Measles is one of the most contagious viruses known and still kills more than 60,000 people a year, mostly young children. But it killed more than a million a year as recently as 2000.
Globally in 2019, 19 million infants missed their first dose; this increase to 22 million marks the biggest jump in two decades, which creates “dangerous conditions for outbreaks,” the organizations warned.
Only 70% of kids received their second dose last year, which is well below the 95% threshold needed to protect communities, the organizations said.
The number of measles cases actually dropped in 2020 to 7.5 million, but Dr. Kate O’Brien, the director of WHO’s department of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, warned in a statement, “evidence suggests we are likely seeing the calm before the storm as the risk of outbreaks continues to grow around the world.”
“It’s critical that countries vaccinate as quickly as possible against COVID-19, but this requires new resources so that it does not come at the cost of essential immunization programs,” O’Brien said. “Routine immunization must be protected and strengthened; otherwise, we risk trading one deadly disease for another.”