Measles jab saves more than 20 million young lives in 15 years, but hundreds of children still die of the disease every day, United Nations health agencies report has revealed.
According to the report, despite a 79 per cent worldwide decrease in measles deaths between 2000 and 2015, nearly 400 children still die from the disease every day.
‘Making measles history is not mission impossible,’ said Robin Nandy, UNICEF Immunisation Chief.
‘We have the tools and the knowledge to do it; what we lack is the political will to reach every single child, no matter how far. Without this commitment, children will continue to die from a disease that is easy and cheap to prevent,” he said.
Mass measles vaccination campaigns and a global increase in routine measles vaccination coverage saved an estimated 20.3 million young lives from 2000 to 2015, according to UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report noted that progress has been uneven.
It indicated that in 2015, about 20 million infants missed their measles shots and an estimated 134,000 children died from the disease.
According to the report, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan account for half of the unvaccinated infants and 75 per cent of the measles deaths.
‘It is not acceptable that millions of children miss their vaccines every year. We have a safe and highly effective vaccine to stop the spread of measles and save lives,’ said Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals.
‘This year, the Region of the Americas was declared free of measles – proof that elimination is possible. Now, we must stop measles in the rest of the world. It starts with vaccination,” he added.
‘Measles is a key indicator of the strength of a country’s immunisation systems and, all too often, it ends up being the canary in the coalmine with outbreaks acting as the first warning of deeper problems,’ said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
‘To address one of the world’s deadliest vaccine-preventable childhood killers we need strong commitments from countries and partners to boost routine immunization coverage and to strengthen surveillance systems,” he stated.
The report said measles, a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through direct contact and through the air, is one of the leading causes of death among young children globally. It can be prevented with two doses of a safe and effective vaccine.
It said measles outbreaks in numerous countries – caused by gaps in routine immunization and in mass vaccination campaigns – continue to be a serious challenge.
It said in 2015, large outbreaks were reported in Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.
It noted that the outbreaks in Germany and Mongolia affected older persons, highlighting the need to vaccinate adolescents and young adults who have no protection against measles.
The report said measles also tend to flare up in countries in conflict or humanitarian emergencies due to the challenges of vaccinating every child.
It recounted that last year, outbreaks were reported in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.
It said measles elimination in four of six WHO regions were the global target at the midpoint of the Global Vaccine Action Plan implementation.
‘The world has missed this target, but we can achieve measles elimination as we have seen in the Region of the Americas,’ said Dr Rebecca Martin, Director of CDC’s Centre for Global Health.
‘As the African adage goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and it takes the same local and global villages to protect children against measles. We can eliminate measles from countries and everyone needs to play a role,” she stated.
“This year’s report shows.’