India has the second highest population of children who haven’t been vaccinated against measles, despite the government’s focused campaign to check the highly contagious infection.
Around 20.8 million children across the world are still missing their first measles vaccine dose, said a joint report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).
More than half these unvaccinated children live in six countries3Nigeria (3.3 million), India (2.9 million), Pakistan (2.0 million), Indonesia (1.2 million), Ethiopia (0.9 million), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (0.7 million).
“The world is still far from reaching regional measles elimination goals. Coverage with the first of two required doses of measles vaccine has stalled at approximately 85% since 2009, far short of the 95% coverage needed to stop measles infections, and coverage with the second dose, despite recent increases, was only 64% in 2016," the report said.
As measles is a highly contagious viral disease, large outbreaks continue to take place in the above mentioned and other countries in Europe and North America, putting children at risk of pneumonia, diarrhoea, encephalitis, blindness, and death.
“Too many children are still missing out on lifesaving vaccines. To reach these children and set ourselves on a realistic road to measles elimination we need to dramatically improve routine immunization backed by strong health systems," said Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the world’s largest supporters of measles immunization programmes.
According to the report, in 2016, an estimated 90,000 people died from measles, which was an 84% drop from more than 550, 000 deaths in 2000. This also marked the first time when global measles deaths had fallen below 100,000 per year. Since 2000, an estimated 5.5 billion doses of measles-containing vaccines have been provided to children through routine immunization services and mass vaccination campaigns, saving an estimated 20.4 million lives.
“We have seen a substantial drop in measles deaths for more than two decades, but now we must strive to reach zero measles cases. Measles elimination will only be reached if measles vaccines reach every child, everywhere," said Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.