40mn kids missed measles jabs: WHO

Amid a spike in measles cases in pockets of States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana and Jharkhand, the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have set off an alarm pointing out that globally a record high of nearly 40 million kids have missed a dose of the measles vaccine last year due to hurdles created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is likely to result in the spiraling of cases given that the air-borne viral disease is highly contagious. In India, as preventive measures, the Centre has already asked all the States to consider administering one additional dose of Measles and Rubella vaccines to all children, aged 9 months to 5 years, in vulnerable areas.

So far, a high number of cases has been reported from certain districts of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala and Maharashtra where the contagious disease has claimed 11 kids and infected over 223.  However, to prevent the disease from spreading and to achieve herd immunity, the Government will have to ensure that at least 95 per cent of children need to receive the vaccine as also been suggested by the WHO and the CDC in their joint report released recently.

As per the US CDC, India has the highest number of cases in the world between April and September 2022. Pakistan is seventh on the list with 3,635 cases, while the US has 33 cases so far.

Terming Measles, an “imminent threat” around the world, the top health bodies noted that despite a two-dose vaccine that is more than 97per cent effective at preventing infection being available for decades, gains made at beating back the potentially dangerous childhood disease have been lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

To prevent the disease from spreading and to achieve herd immunity, the top health bodies say that at least 95 per cent of children need to receive the vaccine. The report found that specifically, 25 million missed their first dose and 14.7 million missed their second dose last year.

“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against Covid-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programs were badly disrupted, and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a statement.

“Getting immunization programs back on track is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease,” the statement continued.

Some facts about measles

  • Just 81 per cent of children globally have received 1st dose & 71 percent received 2nd dose, the lowest coverage seen worldwide since 2008.
  • There were 9 million cases of measles and 128,000 deaths around the world with at least 22 countries experiencing “large and disruptive outbreaks.”
  • No region of the world has achieved and sustained measles elimination. Since 2016, at least 10 countries that had previously eliminated measles reported outbreaks – including the US.
  • One infected patient can infect at least 10 close contacts, not protected either through masking or vaccination.

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