The world has already seen the results of a vaccination effort. Throughout the 1990s, vaccination rates for measles increased around the world.
Most importantly, coverage increased dramatically in developing countries. After that focus on global vaccine coverage, reported measles cases fell from 850,000 in 2000 to 132,000 in 2016.
Unfortunately, after recent trends, the world may be in need of another measles vaccine drive.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious disease spread by coughing or sneezing. Despite a widely-available vaccine, the virus affects millions of people worldwide.
Common symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and a rash. Most people recover safely from measles, but complications can lead to lifelong disabilities or even death.
The best way to protect yourself and others against the disease is through vaccination. With a highly effective vaccination program, we are able to arm a community against measles and limit future outbreaks from occurring.
A Worldwide Resurgence of Measles
In 2018, the number of people infected with measles rose to nearly 10 million with 140,000 of those cases resulting in death. A majority of the deaths were children.
In 2018, there were five countries that accounted for 45% of measles cases, one of those countries being the DRC.
Despite holding immunization programs in the past, their progress stopped in recent years. The DRC has had their immunization services frozen since 2018 for a variety of reasons. The same issues also contributed to their ongoing Ebola outbreak, one of the worst in history.
According to UNICEF, some problems included poor infrastructure, attacks on health centers, and shortages of vaccines. Since the declaration of a measles outbreak in June 2019, there have been more than 310,000 suspected cases and over 6,000 deaths due to measles.
Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF, commented on this trend. “The unacceptable number of children killed last year by a wholly preventable disease is proof that measles anywhere is a threat to children everywhere,” said Fore. Containing and preventing outbreaks will require vaccination for as many children possible.
Current Vaccine Campaigns for Measles
Currently the main fight against measles is being led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.
Between 2012 and 2018, GAVI helped vaccinate 54 million children in developing countries. The organization is now aiming for an even larger goal.
Over the next six months GAVI is aiming to vaccinate 45 million children in seven developing countries. With support from the WHO and UNICEF, GAVI has partnered with many governments to install the measles vaccine campaigns.
GAVI is working with Bangladesh to fund vaccines for local children. They aim to vaccinate more than 15 million children under the age of five and another 17 million children between the ages of five and nine.
Along with Bangladesh GAVI is working with Somalia and the Central African Republic. Both countries already started their campaigns in the previous year. In their continuous efforts, they are also vaccinating children in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Nepal.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, explained the current drives. “No matter where they live, vaccination helps children survive, thrive, and lead a long and healthy life. WHO is proud to be working with Gavi and partners to ensure lifesaving measles vaccines reach where they are needed most,” said Dr. Tedros. Increasing the number of children protected against measles helps build herd immunity. Not only does that help build protection within a community, but for the future as well.
Along with their funding of vaccination campaigns in different countries, GAVI supports implementing measles vaccines into established routine immunization programs in developing countries.
Hundreds of thousands of children are being infected with measles. Thousands are dying each year to a disease that has a safe and effective disease.
As Henrietta Fore stated, “these measles outbreaks have taught us that we need to stay vigilant. We can’t afford to wait and watch.” Action is needed to protect children around the world against a disease that we have eliminated in multiple countries.
Even if GAVI’s goal of vaccinating 45 million children in the next six months seems unreachable, they are hoping to take a needed step in global protection.
Do you have any questions about measles or the MMR vaccine? Do you have questions about other vaccines for an upcoming trip? Passport Health can help. Give us a call at , or book an appointment online.
Did you know the return of measles was such a global issue? What kind of effect do you think these campaign drives will have on measles cases? Let us know in the comments, or via Facebook and Twitter.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing.