The number of people succumbing to measles in 2019 has been fifty-percent higher in 3-years, with the number of people falling ill with the virus hitting the highest marks in a 23-years period, WHO and the United States CDC says in a report.
After years of aggressive immunization against the virus that causes fever and red rashed in children, the rate started to tumble downhill since last year, prompting fears that the pandemic will further disrupt the prevention.
The number of measles infections touched 869,770 cases in 2019– the highest numbers since 1996, while deaths climbed by fifty percent in just three-years at 207,500 lives lost in 2019 alone, a joint report by the WHO and the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published online November 12.
After years of aggressive vaccination across vulnerable communities in the world from 2010 to 2016, the jabbing drive started to dwindle and in 2019 the picture was grim the report states.
Failure to innoculate the population with two vaccines, namely — MCV1 and MCV2 — which must ensure national and subnational coverage of 95% to prevent new infections and deaths, failed to meet the mark.
But the same has clearly not been the case. MCV1 vaccine coverage has been stagnant for more than a decade at up to 85%, whereas the MCV2 vaccine coverage is at 71%, WHO reports. The blanket vaccination coverage remains below the need 95% to prevent outbreaks.
This has been the case in key measles vulnerable populations, including the 198 WHO-member nations.
“Measles virus easily finds unprotected children, adolescents, and adults because it is so contagious,” said Dr. Robert Linkins, Measles & Rubella Initiative Management Team Chair and Accelerated Disease Control Branch Chief at U.S. CDC.
“Infections are not only a sign of poor measles vaccination coverage, but also a known maker, or ‘tracer,’ that vital health services may not be reaching populations most at-risk.”
Like every other system, the measles vaccination drive was not spared from the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic. As of November, 94 million people are at risk of missing the measles vaccine in 26 regions due to disruption in service, thanks to the pandemic.
WHO noted, of the 26 severely affected regions, less than a dozen nations have resumed their measles vaccinating campaigns, namely: Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, and Somalia.
In 2019, nine countries contributed 73% of all the cases in 2019 — the worst year for the viral outbreak in decades.
“Measles is entirely preventable; in a time in which we have a powerful, safe, and cost-effective vaccine nobody should still be dying of this disease,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said.
Gavi is among other partner organizations and non-profits like the UN, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work hand-in-hand to prevent measles outbreak.