Measles is an ‘imminent threat’ worldwide, CDC and WHO report finds

(WASHINGTON) — Measles is an “imminent threat” around the world, according to a new joint report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Despite a two-dose vaccine that is more than 97% effective at preventing infection being available for decades, gains made at beating back the potentially dangerous childhood disease have been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report found that in 2021, nearly 40 million children — a record-high — missed a dose of the measles vaccine. Specifically, 25 million missed their first dose and 14.7 million missed their second dose.

“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programs were badly disrupted, and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a statement.

“Getting immunization programs back on track is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease,” the statement continued.

To prevent the disease from spreading and to achieve herd immunity, the CDC and WHO say at least 95% of children need to receive the vaccine.

However, just 81% of children globally have received the first dose and 71% have received the second dose, the lowest coverage worldwide seen since 2008.

Consequently, there were 9 million cases of measles and 128,000 deaths around the world with at least 22 countries experiencing “large and disruptive outbreaks.”

“The record number of children under-immunized and susceptible to measles shows the profound damage immunization systems have sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “Measles outbreaks illustrate weaknesses in immunization programs, but public health officials can use outbreak response to identify communities at risk, understand causes of under- vaccination, and help deliver locally tailored solutions to ensure vaccinations are available to all.”

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