Explosive’ measles outbreak expected

Written by on November 11, 2021

Explosive school-based measles outbreak

Parents are warned of the increased risk posed to their children due to the largest increase in unvaccinated children in 20 years, reported by the WHO and the CDC

While reported measles cases have fallen compared to previous years, progress toward measles elimination continues to decline and the risk of outbreaks is mounting, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During 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.

Lower reported measles cases in 2020 must not mask the growing risk of measles to children worldwide

The ability of countries to ensure children receive 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.  First-dose coverage fell in 2020, and only 70 percent of children received their second dose 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 for the disease. These supplemental campaigns are needed where people have missed out on measles-containing vaccines through routine immunization programs.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative

The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) is a partnership among the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. CDC, UNICEF and WHO. Working with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and other stakeholders, the Initiative is committed to achieving and maintaining a world without measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome. Since 2000, M&RI has helped deliver measles vaccine to children worldwide and saved over 31.7 million lives globally by increasing vaccination coverage, responding to outbreaks, monitoring and evaluation, and supporting confidence and demand for vaccination.

By the end of 2020, 81 countries (42 percent) had succeeded in sustaining their measles elimination status despite the pandemic, but no new countries were verified as having achieved measles elimination.  There are still 15 countries that have not introduced the measles second dose into their national immunization schedules, leaving children and adolescents in these countries especially vulnerable to measles outbreaks.

If your child is ill, the initial symptoms of measles included:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
  • small greyish-white spots in the mouth
  • aches and pains
  • a cough
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness, irritability, and a general lack of energy

When to see a GP

You should contact a GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles.

It’s best to phone before your visit as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.

You should also see a GP if you have been in close contact with someone who has measles and have not:

  • been fully vaccinated with 2 doses of the MMR vaccine
  • had the infection before

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