Measles cases rise 79% in two months, warn UNICEF and WHO

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned of what they described as a “perfect storm” of measles outbreak conditions, revealing that measles cases increased by 79% in the first two months of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.
Meanwhile, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Ethiopia have recorded the largest measles outbreaks in the past year due to insufficient vaccination coverage against measles which is the main because of epidemics, wherever they occur.
The duo warned that conditions were ripe for serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases
In a report, they said an increase in measles cases in January and February 2022 is a worrying sign of an increased risk of the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and could trigger larger outbreaks, particularly of measles affecting millions of children this year.
Pandemic-related disruptions, growing inequities in access to vaccines, and the diversion of resources from routine immunization are leaving too many children unprotected against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
The duo noted in the report that the risk of large outbreaks has increased as communities relax social distancing practices and other preventive measures for COVID-19 implemented during the height of the pandemic.
“Furthermore, with millions of people displaced by conflict and crises, including in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan, disruptions to routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination services, lack of lack of clean water and sanitation and overcrowding increase the risk of vaccination. – preventable epidemics.
“Nearly 17,338 measles cases were reported globally in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 in the first two months of 2021. Because measles is highly contagious, cases tend to appear quickly when vaccination levels decrease. Agencies worry that measles outbreaks will also prevent outbreaks of other diseases that don’t spread as quickly.
“Besides its direct effect on the body, which can be deadly, the measles virus also weakens the immune system and makes a child more susceptible to other infectious diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea, including for months afterwards. measles infection itself among those who survive Most cases occur in settings that have faced social and economic hardship due to COVID-19, conflict or other crises, and where health system infrastructure and insecurity are chronically weak,” the report notes.
Speaking on development, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said measles is more than a dangerous and life-threatening disease.
According to Russell, “It is also an early indication that there are gaps in our global immunization coverage, gaps that vulnerable children cannot afford.
“It is encouraging to see that people in many communities are beginning to feel sufficiently protected against COVID-19 to resume more social activities. But doing it in places where children don’t get routine vaccinations creates the perfect storm for the spread of a disease like measles.
In 2020, 23 million children did not receive basic childhood vaccines through routine health services, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.
As of April 2022, agencies were reporting 21 large and disruptive measles outbreaks around the world over the past 12 months.
Most measles cases have been reported in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
The numbers are likely higher because the pandemic has disrupted surveillance systems globally, with potential under-reporting.
Speaking, World Health Organization Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted immunization services, health systems have been overwhelmed and we are now witnessing to a resurgence of deadly diseases, including measles. For many other diseases, the impact of these interruptions in immunization services will be felt for decades.
“Now is the time to get essential vaccination back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everyone can have access to these life-saving vaccines.”
“As of April 1, 2022, 57 campaigns against vaccine-preventable diseases in 43 countries that were due to take place since the start of the pandemic are still postponed, affecting 203 million people, most of whom are children.
Of these, 19 are measles campaigns, which put 73 million children at risk of measles due to missed vaccinations.
“In Ukraine, the 2019 measles catch-up campaign was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then due to the war. Routine and catch-up campaigns are needed wherever access is possible to help ensure there are no repeat outbreaks like in 2017-2019 when there were over 115,000 measles cases and 41 deaths in the country – it was the highest incidence in Europe.
“Coverage of 95% or more with two doses of safe and effective measles vaccine can protect children against measles. However, disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have delayed the introduction of the second dose of the measles vaccine in many countries.
“As countries strive to respond to outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases and recover lost ground, UNICEF and WHO, along with partners such as Gavi, the Global vaccine, Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) partners, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others are supporting efforts to strengthen immunization systems by restoring immunization services and campaigns so that countries can safely implement routine immunization programs to fill the gaps left by setbacks; support health workers and community leaders to actively communicate with caregivers to explain the importance of vaccinations; fill gaps in immunization coverage, including identifying communities and individuals who have been missed during the pandemic; ensure that COVID-19 vaccine delivery is independently funded and well integrated into overall immunization service planning so that it does not come at the expense of childhood and other immunization services; implement national plans to prevent and respond to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and strengthen immunization systems as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts.”

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