Global Measles Outbreaks and Deaths Raise Concerns, Vaccination Rates Struggle to Recover
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expressed growing concerns about the global increase in measles cases, deaths, and outbreaks. The vaccination rates for measles have struggled to recover from the decline experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 2000 to 2019, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles-containing vaccine increased from 72% to 86%. However, in 2020, the vaccination rate dropped to 83%, and it further decreased to 81% in 2021, the lowest since 2008. Although there was a slight improvement in 2022 with a first-dose measles vaccine coverage of 83%, only 34% of the 194 WHO countries reached the target vaccination rate of 95% or higher.
It is crucial to administer two doses of the measles vaccine to stop the disease, but the coverage rate for two doses was only 74% in 2022, up from 71% in 2021. As a result, measles transmission has rebounded due to lower vaccination coverage, with an 18% increase in estimated cases from 2021 to 2022. Additionally, the number of countries experiencing large or disruptive outbreaks increased by 68%, and estimated deaths rose by 43%.
The decline in vaccination rates is particularly concerning in low-income countries, where there has been no recovery from the impact of the pandemic. In 2022, the top ten countries with the highest number of infants missing their first measles vaccine dose were Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Angola, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, and Madagascar. These ten countries account for 55% of the nearly 22 million infants worldwide who missed their first measles dose.
Both the WHO and CDC are emphasizing the urgent need for targeted efforts to prevent measles diseases and deaths. The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries is alarming and requires immediate action. The WHO and CDC are calling for collaboration to accelerate the recovery of vaccination and surveillance programs to achieve regional measles elimination.
The global rise in measles cases and outbreaks is a pressing issue that demands attention and action from governments, healthcare institutions, and communities alike. The ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 must not overshadow the critical need for measles vaccinations, especially in vulnerable populations.