February 3, 2023

Measles cases are surging because the pandemic disrupted childhood vaccinations, global agencies say.

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The United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization say measles cases have risen nearly 80 percent worldwide so far this year, a serious consequence of barriers to childhood immunizations against infectious diseases.

Agencies warned on Wednesday that the lives of millions of children were at stake as other vaccination campaigns slowed. Agency figures show that in 2020, approximately 23 million children missed out on basic childhood immunizations that would normally be provided through routine health services – 3.7 million more than in 2019.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement that measles is more than just a dangerous and potentially deadly disease. “It’s also an early indication that there are flaws in our global immunization coverage, gaps that vulnerable children cannot afford.”

About 17,300 cases of measles were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to approximately 9,700 in the first two months of 2021, according to new figures, which underestimate the true number of possible infections.

Agencies say there have been 21 major outbreaks of measles worldwide in the past 12 months, most of them in Africa or the Middle East, including countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

“We knew this was going to be one of the serious consequences of the epidemic,” said Amish Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, who was not involved in preparing the report. “Once the world has a problem, you can’t turn it around and expect the consequences. Most people don’t see measles as a threat to a contagious disease in the world.

The agencies said that 19 measles prevention campaigns aimed at vaccinating more than 70 million children have so far been postponed during the outbreak. In all, about 60 vaccination campaigns of all kinds have been suspended in 43 countries, affecting about 200 million people, most of them children. The routine vaccination schedule for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and polio has been disrupted.

Dr. Adalja said in an interview that many countries had limited public health resources, and they could not afford to carry out corona virus and measles vaccination campaigns at the same time.

“The big problem is that there is no public health infrastructure to do that,” he said. “The fact is that even such a simple task can be very difficult for a healthcare system that is struggling to do just that.”

Dr. Adilja pointed out that the United States has not been safe from such failures. One shortcoming In childhood vaccinations and An addition The number of reported sexually transmitted diseases in the country during epidemics is on the rise. The opioid crisis. “There was limited bandwidth for public health workers everywhere,” he said.

The United States experienced this. The worst measles epidemic In the decades in 2019.

Experts are keeping a close eye on war-torn Ukraine, which already had the highest rate of measles infection in Europe before the epidemic, with more than 115,000 cases and 41 deaths between 2017 and 2019.

According to the World Health Organization, a country needs to vaccinate at least 95% of its population to prevent the measles epidemic from becoming an epidemic, which scientists call herd immunity. It takes two doses of the vaccine to prevent measles, given at intervals of at least a month, caused by a virus that mainly attacks children. Serious complications from a measles infection can include brain swelling, diarrhea, severe respiratory infections and blindness.

Dr. Adalja said that it would be really difficult to eradicate the shortage of childhood vaccinations. “Temporarily, people will get measles, and die from measles.”

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