Given the subject matter of my novel Invisible Threat, the recent report by the WHO showing outbreaks of measles is concerning. Continued delivery of vaccine is an imperative that must be continued.
by Felix Richter,Apr 28, 2022
As the WHO celebrates World Immunization Week to promote the value of vaccines and immunization, UNICEF and the WHO have warned that “pandemic-related disruptions, increasing inequalities in access to vaccines, and the diversion of resources from routine immunization” could result in serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
A steep rise in measles cases in the first two months of 2022 is particularly concerning, both organizations said in a joint statement, as cases of the highly contagious disease tend to show up quickly when vaccination levels decline and could thus be a harbinger of outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases that do not spread as rapidly.
“Measles is more than a dangerous and potentially deadly disease. It is also an early indication that there are gaps in our global immunization coverage,” Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director said. According to WHO data, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services – a 3.7 million increase over 2019 and the highest number since 2009.
In many regions, measles vaccine coverage among children has stalled, if not declined in 2020 compared to the previous year. That is not to take away from the fact that large progress has been made over the past two decades, during which first and second-dose coverage among children worldwide has increased from 72 to 84 percent and from 18 to 70 percent, respectively.
As is so often the case, the progress has been uneven, however, with Africa trailing behind in immunization levels. Just 36 percent of children in Africa had received two doses of measles vaccine in 2020, far off the 95 percent needed to effectively protect communities against the spread of the disease. As a result, Africa accounted for 77 percent of reported measles cases in 2020, and four of the five countries with the largest outbreaks in the 12 months until April 2022 are also African, with conflict-ridden Afghanistan the only outlier.
This chart shows the global progress in vaccination against measles.