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Millions of children become susceptible to measles as vaccination rates fall, according to a new report


The threat of a measles outbreak is growing due to a significant decline in vaccination rates among children worldwide, according to joint report released Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Over the past few decades, measles has been kept relatively contained thanks to double-dose vaccination that is 97% effective. Measles vaccination rates have steadily declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report found, with nearly 40 million children missing one or both doses in 2021, a record according to the CDC and WHO.

Due to the pandemic, 61 million doses of the measles vaccine were postponed or lost in 18 countries in 2021, according to the report.

“This decline is a significant setback in global progress in achieving and sustaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection,” the two agencies said in a news release.

In 2021, there were about 9 million measles cases and 128,000 measles deaths worldwide, according to the CDC and WHO. Twenty-two countries experienced “large and disruptive outbreaks,” a trend that has continued through 2022, according to the report.

The report found that, based on the most recent data, only 81% of children worldwide receive a first dose and only 71% receive a second dose. This marks the “lowest global coverage rates” since 2008, according to the CDC and WHO.

“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,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Now the two agencies are advising officials around the world to get their immunization systems back on track to avoid more missed vaccines.

“Measles outbreaks illustrate the weaknesses of immunization programs,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in a statement. “Public health officials can use outbreak response to identify communities at risk, understand the causes of under-vaccination, and help provide locally tailored solutions to ensure vaccines are available to all.”

The best way to contain the deadly virus is for all stakeholders to put their resources into immunization surveillance systems, the report stressed.

Via Immunization Agenda 2030 As a global strategy, which aims to provide access to vaccines to everyone around the world, the WHO and CDC hope that all children can be vaccinated and that outbreaks can be quickly detected and responded to.

“We have a small window of opportunity to urgently make up lost ground on measles vaccination and protect every child,” Ephrem Tekle Lemango, UNICEF chief of immunization, said in a statement. “The time for decisive action is now.”

Last week, health officials in central Ohio reported they were investigating a measles outbreak in various kindergartens. 18 cases were under investigation, authorities said at the time. All cases were in unvaccinated children, and 17 of the 18 infected children are under five years of age.



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