Measles outbreak warning as 140,000 die in one year – young children at great risk

The report published by the WHO and the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention has stated 140,000 people died from the disease in 2018. Moreover, crucially most deaths were among children under five, while babies and young children are at the greatest risk from infection.

Measles vaccination rates have stagnated for close to a decade the WHO stated.

Furthermore, both the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), estimate that only 70 percent of children received their second recommend dose.

Director general of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said: “The fact that any child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles is frankly an outrage and a collective failure to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.

“To save lives, we must ensure everyone can benefit from vaccines – which means investing in immunisation and quality health care as a right for all.”

The damning report comes as the US reported its highest number of cases for the disease in 25 years.

As well as the UK, three other countries – Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece – lost their measles elimination status in 2018.

Moreover, over the first six months of 2019, there were a reported 90,000 cases of the disease in Europe.

Losing the measles elimination status is when the disease re-enters the country after it has been declared eliminated.

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Dr Robert Linkins, Branch Chief of Accelerated Disease Control and Vaccine Preventable Disease Surveillance at the CDC, said: “We’ve had a safe and effective measles vaccine for over 50 years.

“These estimates remind us that every child, everywhere needs – and deserves – this life-saving vaccine.

“We must turn this trend around and stop these preventable deaths by improving measles vaccine access and coverage.”

In light of the results, the WHO is also urging countries to put systems in place to ensure children do not miss their essential vaccinations.

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Gail McGovern, President & CEO, American Red Cross, said: “We are alarmed at the increase in measles in the US and around the globe – but there is hope.

“Measles outbreaks are entirely preventable through strong systems that ensure no child misses lifesaving vaccines.”

Following the rising numbers of reported death, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock pledged the Tory Government would introduce a vaccination reminder system across the country.

Mr Hancock said: “The science is clear: vaccines save lives, and ensuring that children are properly immunised is one of the most important things any parent can do for their children.

“So we will introduce a national vaccination reminder system, to make sure as many children as possible are vaccinated.”

At the Tory conference in September, he added: “I think there’s a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccinations for children for when they go to school.

“Because otherwise they’re putting other children at risk.”

WHO immunisation director, Dr Kate O’Brien also expressed concerns over the progression of the disease.

Labelling it as a “backslide”, she also warned of the continued lack of progress over the disease.

She said: “We are clearly backsliding in terms of progress on measles.

“It’s not just that we are not continuing to have progress in its control and direction towards elimination, we are now going backwards.”

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