WHO reports in its latest statement that fifteen countries are yet to introduce measles second dose in their national immunization schedules, which they say leaves children and adolescents in those countries to measles outbreaks.
No new countries have achieved measles elimination, just a month
to the end of the year. This is according to the World Health Organization-WHO.
By the end of 2020, 81 countries had succeeded in sustaining their
measles elimination status despite the pandemic.
WHO reports in its latest statement that fifteen countries are yet
to introduce measles second dose in their national immunization schedules,
which they say leaves children and adolescents in those countries to measles
The new report which is co-authored by the US Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) also shows that generally measles cases have fallen compared
to previous years even as progress toward measles elimination continues to
decline and the risk of outbreaks is mounting.
In 2020, more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of
measles vaccine, 3 million more than in 2019, marking the largest increase in
two decades and creating dangerous conditions for outbreaks to occur.
Compared with the previous year, reported measles cases decreased by more than
80 percent in 2020, something they partly attribute to interruptions in
transport due to COVID-19 which led to laboratories testing the lowest number of
samples ever in the last ten years.
“Large numbers of unvaccinated children, outbreaks of measles, and
disease detection and diagnostics diverted to support COVID-19 responses are
factors that increase the likelihood of measles-related deaths and serious
complications in children,” said Kevin Cain, CDC’s Global Immunization
“We must act now to strengthen disease surveillance systems and
close immunity gaps, before travel and trade return to pre-pandemic levels, to
prevent deadly measles outbreaks and mitigate the risk of other vaccine-preventable
Experts now say lower reported measles cases in 2020 must not mask the growing
risk of measles to children worldwide.
While the ability of countries to ensure children receives both
recommended doses of measles vaccine is a key indicator of global progress
toward measles elimination and capacity to prevent the spread of the virus, the
report vaccine coverage to have fallen. Only 70 percent of children
received their second dose of measles vaccine, well below the 95 percent
coverage needed to protect communities from the spread of the measles virus.
Adding to the worsening of immunity gaps worldwide, 24 measles vaccination
campaigns in 23 countries, originally planned for 2020, were postponed because
of the COVID-19 pandemic leaving more than 93 million people at risk of the
With this grim picture, countries are being urged to conduct
supplemental vaccination campaigns to reach people that missed out on routine
immunization at the height of the lockdowns.