Washington.- A record nearly 40 million children missed a dose of measles vaccine in 2021 due to obstacles created by the Covid-19 pandemic, now looming as the disease spreads across multiple regions. in the world, warned yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) and the public health agency of the United States.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that although the world managed to develop vaccines against Covid-19 and immunize a large part of the population in record time, routine immunization programs suffered tremendous delays, leaving millions of people in danger.
According to a joint study by that UN agency and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 million minors missed the first dose of measles and 14.7 million the second.
Measles, one of the most contagious human viruses, is almost entirely preventable through vaccination, but an estimated 95 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated two or more times to build herd immunity and keep the disease at bay.
However, in 2021 only 81 percent of children worldwide received their first dose and 71 percent their second.
It was the lowest global first-dose coverage rate since 2008.
While measles cases have yet to rise dramatically compared to previous years, now is the time to act, said WHO measles chief Patrick O’Connor.
No World Health Organization region has achieved widespread immunity to contain or eliminate measles, allowing the virus to spread rapidly.
“Putting immunization programs in motion is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
The UN body especially alerted countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, since the five nations with the highest number of infants who did not receive their first dose were Nigeria, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Since 2016, 10 countries that had previously contained measles have experienced outbreaks.
Measles is characterized by high fever and a skin rash, but the danger is that it can be contagious days before the rash appears.
Complications can include pneumonia and swelling of the brain, both of which can cause permanent disability. Between 1 and 3 of every thousand children in the world die from respiratory and neurological complications.