Reported measles cases have dropped compared to previous years, but progress toward eliminating the disease continues to decline, creating dangerous conditions for outbreaks, a new report showed on Wednesday.
In 2020, more than 22 million babies lost their first dose of measles vaccine – 3 million more than in 2019, marking the most significant increase in two decades, said the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers of the United States for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC).
Compared to a year ago, reported measles cases decreased by more than 80% in 2020.
“As reported measles cases fell in 2020, evidence suggests we are likely to see calm before the storm as the risk of outbreaks continues to rise worldwide,” said Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunization and vaccines. .
“It is critical that countries be vaccinated as soon as possible against COVID-19, but this requires new resources so as not to do so at the cost of essential immunization programs.”
O’Brien said routine immunization should be protected and strengthened; otherwise, “we risk exchanging one deadly disease for another.”
Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses in the world, but it is almost completely preventable through vaccination, the WHO said.
In the last 20 years, estimates are that the measles vaccine has avoided more than 30 million deaths worldwide.
Estimated measles deaths fell from about 1.07 million in 2000 to 60,700 in 2020.
However, measles surveillance also deteriorated, with the lowest number of specimens sent for laboratory testing in more than 10 years.
Poor measles monitoring, testing and reporting jeopardize countries’ ability to prevent outbreaks of the highly contagious disease, the WHO and CDC said.
Significant measles outbreaks occurred in 26 countries, accounting for 84% of all reported cases, by 2020.
“The large number of unvaccinated children, measles outbreaks, and the detection and diagnosis of deviant diseases to support responses to COVID-19 are factors that increase the risk of measles-related deaths and serious complications in children,” said Kevin Cain. MD, CDC Global Immunization. director.
“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 to mitigate the risk of other diseases.” preventable with vaccines. ”
The ability of countries to ensure that children receive both recommended doses of measles vaccine is an essential indicator of worldwide progress in eliminating measles and preventing the spread of the virus.
The first dose coverage fell in 2020 and only 70% of children received the second dose of measles vaccine, well below the 95% coverage needed to protect communities from the spread of the measles virus.
Adding to the exacerbation of global immunity gaps, 24 measles vaccination campaigns in 23 countries, originally planned for 2020, were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This left more than 93 million people at risk for the disease.
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