Unicef warns against global measles outbreaks
United Nations, April 28 (IANS) Measles cases spiked around the world in the first two months of 2022, triggering concerns about larger outbreaks, the Unicef warned.
Almost 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared with 9,665 during the first two months of 2021, Xinhua news agency quoted the Unicef as saying in an update
As measles is very contagious, cases tend to show up quickly when vaccination levels decline, it added.
As of April 2022, there were 21 large and disruptive measles outbreaks around the world in the last 12 months.
Countries with the largest measles outbreaks include Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia.
Insufficient measles vaccine coverage is the major reason for outbreaks, wherever they occur, said Unicef.
Coverage at or above 95 per cent with two doses of the safe and effective measles vaccine can protect children against measles.
However, Covid-related disruptions have delayed the introduction of the second dose of the measles vaccine in many countries.
With millions of people being displaced due to conflicts and crises, disruptions in routine immunization and Covid-19 vaccination services, lack of clean water and sanitation, and overcrowding increase the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, warned the UN agency.
Apart from its direct effect on the body, which can be lethal, the measles virus also weakens the immune system and makes a child more vulnerable to other infectious diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea, it said.
"Measles is more than a dangerous and potentially deadly disease. It is also an early indication that there are gaps in our global immunization coverage, gaps vulnerable children cannot afford," said Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell.
"It is encouraging that people in many communities are beginning to feel protected enough from Covid-19 to return to more social activities. But doing so in places where children are not receiving routine vaccination creates the perfect storm for the spread of a disease like measles."
In 2020, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.
As of April 1 this year, 57 vaccine-preventable disease campaigns in 43 countries that were scheduled to take place since the start of the pandemic were still put on hold, impacting 203 million people, most of them children.
Of these, 19 are measles campaigns, which put 73 million children at risk of measles due to missed vaccinations, the Unicef added.