Measles surge is killing thousands worldwide as plummeting vaccine rates lead to an ‘alarming upsurge’
- There were 364,808 cases of measles reported in the first six months of this year
- Countries including Democratic Republic of the Congo facing deadly outbreaks
- World Health Organisation said ‘critical gaps’ in coverage are causing deaths
Published: 18:08 EDT, 11 October 2019 | Updated: 18:14 EDT, 11 October 2019
Measles is staging a devastating comeback that is killing thousands of children around the globe, the World Health Organisation warned yesterday.
Plummeting vaccination rates have led to an ‘alarming upsurge in measles cases in all regions’, including the UK, experts said.
There were 364,808 cases of measles reported to the WHO in the first six months of this year – triple the amount in 2018 and the highest level since 2006.
Several countries are currently battling deadly outbreaks, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 4,000 people have died of measles already this year.
Plummeting vaccination rates have led to an ‘alarming upsurge in measles cases in all regions’, including the UK, experts said (stock image of child with measles rash)
Yesterday Dr Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s department of immunisation, said ‘critical gaps’ in coverage are causing ‘widespread loss of life and disability’.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Dr O’Brien said the UK was an example of a high-income country where falling vaccine coverage is particularly concerning.
She said: ‘There are countries that have recently lost their measles-free status, including the Czech Republic and the UK.
‘There has been an upsurge in measles in every region of the world, both in outbreaks, the total number of cases and number of deaths.
‘The fundamental root cause of that in every country is a failure of children to be adequately vaccinated and receive both doses of the measles vaccine.’
The WHO says 95 per cent of the population must have two vaccinations – at age one and age three – to adequately protect against measles and preserve ‘herd immunity’ (pictured, the MMR vaccine)
The WHO says 95 per cent of the population must have two vaccinations – at age one and age three – to adequately protect against measles and preserve ‘herd immunity’. But latest global figures show about 86 per cent coverage with a first measles vaccine dose and less than 70 per cent for a second dose.
There has been a resurgence of measles around the world since 2016, and WHO experts said the situation was ‘alarming’.
In Europe, the number of cases in the first half of 2019 outstripped that for the whole of last year. Nearly 90,000 cases and 37 deaths were reported across 48 of the 53 countries in the European region between January and June this year.
Major outbreaks of the illness have also killed thousands in Madagascar, the Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine.
In the UK just 90.3 per cent of children had their first dose in 2018-19, down from 91.2 per cent the year before. And just 86.4 per cent had received their second dose by their fifth birthday.