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Measles is an ‘imminent threat’ worldwide, says CDC and WHO report

Measles is an ‘imminent threat’ to the world, says new joint report published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Although a two-dose vaccine more than 97% effective in preventing infection has been available for decades, gains made in warding off potentially dangerous childhood illness have been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report found that in 2021 nearly 40 million children – a record – missed a dose of measles vaccine. Specifically, 25 million missed their first dose and 14.7 million missed their second dose.

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

Sick child with red rash from measles.

Bilanol/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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

To prevent the spread of the disease and achieve herd immunity, the CDC and WHO say at least 95% of children should receive the vaccine.

However, only 81% of children globally received the first dose and 71% received the second dose, the lowest global coverage seen since 2008.

As a result, there have been 9 million measles cases and 128,000 deaths worldwide, with at least 22 countries experiencing “significant and disruptive outbreaks”.

“The record number of children who are underimmunized and susceptible to measles shows the profound damage immunization systems have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. .

“Measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunization programs, but public health officials can use outbreak response to identify communities at risk, understand the causes of under-immunization, and help provide locally tailored solutions to ensure that vaccines are available to all.”

No region in the world has achieved and maintained measles elimination, according to the report. Since 2016, at least 10 countries that had previously eliminated measles have reported outbreaks – including the United States

Measles is an incredibly contagious disease. According to the CDC, an infected patient can infect at least 10 close contacts who are protected neither by wearing a mask nor by vaccination.

Measles complications can range from non-threatening, including rashes, to severe, such as viral sepsis, pneumonia, or brain swelling.

Before the measles vaccine, about 3-4 million Americans were infected with measles each year, 48,000 were hospitalized and 400-500 died, the CDC says. said.

“The drop in measles vaccination rates should set off all the alarm bells,” Elizabeth Cousens, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, said in a statement. “Tens of millions of children are at risk of contracting this deadly, yet entirely preventable disease, until we get global immunization efforts back on track. There’s no time to lose. We must work urgently to ensure that life-saving vaccines reach the last child.

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