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COVID-19 has caused millions of children worldwide to miss their measles vaccinations, putting them at increased risk of measles infection.
The threat of measles has grown, putting children at a greater risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC noted that measles vaccination rates have been on a consistent decline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a record 40 million children missing a vaccine dose in 2021. Data from the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) showed that 25 million children missed their first dose, and another 14.7 million missed their second dose.
This decline in vaccination rates has left millions of children susceptible to measles infection, creating a major setback in eliminating measles worldwide. There were 9 million cases of measles in 2021, leading to 128,000 deaths. Large and disruptive outbreaks were seen in 22 countries.
Along with a decline in vaccination rates, weakened measle surveillance and immunization delays caused by COVID-19 have contributed to the growing threat of measles. According to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, COVID-19 caused severe disruptions to routine immunization programs, causing millions of kids to miss vaccinations against dangerous diseases such as measles.
“Getting immunization programs back on track is absolutely critical,” Tedros said. “Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease.”
Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses, but can almost be entirely prevented through vaccination, according to the CDC. Herd immunity can be achieved if coverage of 2 or more vaccine doses reaches 95%. Currently, only 81% of children receive their first dose, and only 71% reach their second dose.
Measles is a worldwide threat, with no WHO region successfully achieving and sustaining measles elimination. Transmission was reestablished in 10 countries that had previously eliminated measles since 2016.
COVID-19 led to almost 61 million delayed or missed measle vaccines across 18 countries in 2021. Because of this, the CDC and WHO have urged public health officials to increase vaccination efforts and improve surveillance through collaborative efforts on global, regional, national, and local scales.
Nearly 40 million children are dangerously susceptible to growing measles threat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 23, 2022. Accessed November 30, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p1123-measles-threat.html