The World Health Organisation, in its latest report, revealed that the COVID-19 outbreak has threatened global progress against measles.
In the report titled, ‘Global progress against measles threatened amidst COVID-19 pandemic’, the WHO stated that the progress towards the elimination of measles has declined as priority was being placed on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, based on a study by WHO and the United States Centre for Disease Control, also mentioned that reported measles cases have fallen compared to previous years.
Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien, said, “While reported measles cases dropped in 2020, evidence suggests we are likely seeing the calm before the storm as the risk of outbreaks continues to grow around the world.”
In 2019, 19 million infants missed their first dose of measles vaccine and the number increased in 2020, where over 22 million did not take their first dose.
According to the WHO and CDC, this marked the largest increase in two decades and has created a condition for measles outbreak to occur.
CDC’s Global Immunization Director, Kevin Cain, said, “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.”
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“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 diseases.”
Due to COVID-19, 24 measles vaccination campaigns in 23 countries, originally planned for 2020, were postponed, leaving over 93 million people at risk for the disease.
O’Brien said, “It’s critical that countries vaccinate as quickly as possible against COVID-19, but this requires new resources so that it does not come at the cost of essential immunization programs. Routine immunization must be protected and strengthened; otherwise, we risk trading one deadly disease for another.”