Health officials warn of increased risk of measles outbreak after 22 million children lost their vaccine last year

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During coronavirus pandemic last year, 22 million children did not receive the measles vaccine, according to data from the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, the two health agencies warn of an increased risk of a measles outbreak.

Although the reported number of measles cases decreased by 80% last year, the CDC and WHO said the ability to monitor the disease during that time declined as resources were diverted towards the COVID-pandemic. 19.

“Large numbers of unvaccinated children, measles outbreaks, and deviated disease detection and diagnostics to support COVID-19 responses are factors that increase the likelihood of measles-related deaths and serious complications in children,” Kevin Cain, director Global Immunization of the CDC, he said in a statement Wednesday. “We must act now to strengthen disease surveillance systems and fill immune gaps, before travel and trade revert to pre-pandemic levels, to prevent deadly measles outbreaks and mitigate the risk of other vaccine-preventable diseases.” .

Three million fewer children were vaccinated against the life-threatening disease in 2020 than in 2019. Overall, only 70% of children received both doses of the two-dose vaccine, which health agencies say is well below the 95% threshold needed to protect communities from an outbreak.

In addition, a measles vaccination campaign, scheduled in 23 different countries in 2020, has been postponed due to the pandemic. As a result, according to the CDC and WHO, more than 93 million people are vulnerable to the disease.

“These additional campaigns are needed where people have lost measles-containing vaccines through routine immunization programs,” health agencies said Wednesday.

“While reported measles cases have declined in 2020, evidence suggests we are likely seeing pre-storm calm as the risk of outbreaks continues to rise around the world,” said Dr. Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals. “It is critical that countries vaccinate as quickly as possible against COVID-19, but this requires new resources so that it does not come at the expense of essential immunization programs. Routine immunization must be protected and strengthened, otherwise we risk trading a fatal disease. for another. “

The measles vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease, which is one of the most contagious human viruses in the world. The vaccine has prevented around 30 million deaths in the past 20 years alone. In 2020, about 7.5 million people got the disease and 60,700 people died from it, health agencies said.

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