Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading in different regions globally, as COVID-19 has led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened disease surveillance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Public Health Agency said on Wednesday. .

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost entirely preventable by vaccination. However, 95 percent vaccine coverage is needed to prevent population outbreaks.

A record number of nearly 40 million children missed a dose of the measles vaccine in 2021 due to barriers created by the COVID pandemic, the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a joint report.

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Although measles cases have not yet increased dramatically compared to previous years, now is the time to act, WHO’s head of measles, Patrick O’Connor, told Reuters.

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“We’re at a crossroads,” he said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a very challenging 12-24 months trying to mitigate that.”

A combination of factors such as long-standing social distancing measures and the cyclical nature of measles may explain why there hasn’t yet been an explosion of cases despite a widening immunity gap, but that could change quickly, O’Connor said, noting the highly contagious nature of the disease.

The WHO has already seen a rise in major devastating outbreaks since the start of 2022, from 19 to nearly 30 by September, O’Connor said, adding that he was particularly concerned about parts of sub-Saharan Africa.