- Vaccination coverage to protect the population must be 95%. However, it does not exceed 85% worldwide.
- More than 200,000 people died from measles in 2019, 50% more than in 2016.
It is a comeback that worries the world health authorities. Measles, this viral infection that mainly affects children, killed 207,500 worldwide in 2019 according to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), or 50% more than in 2016.
Declining vaccination coverage
Measles is a highly contagious viral infectious disease that primarily affects children. It most often starts with a cold, followed by a cough and eye irritation. Then fever and red patches appear on the body. If the disease is not treated in time, it can cause pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which can leave serious neurological consequences or even lead to death.
The WHO counted 869,770 cases of measles in the world in 2019. To find figures as high, we have to go back to 1996, 23 years ago. This surge in cases is explained by vaccination coverage which is not sufficiently followed in the world.
The measles vaccine is given in two injections six months apart. In theory, for herd immunity to be maintained, 95% of the population must be vaccinated. However, the coverage rate for the first dose has stagnated at 85% worldwide, and drops to 71% for the second injection.
“We know how to prevent measles outbreaks and resulting deaths, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO. These data clearly show that in all parts of the world we are failing to protect children from measles. We must act together to help countries and inspire communities to immunize everyone, everywhere, against measles, and to stop this deadly virus.”
Vaccination against measles victim of Covid-19
Without vaccination, a person who has contracted measles can infect between 15 and 20 others. Infected people are most often those who have not received treatment or who have not completed it. If the figures for the year 2020 are not yet known, it is very likely that the confinements imposed in many countries and the saturation of hospitals due to the Covid-19 crisis severely slowed down the measles vaccination campaign.
According to the WHO, more than 94 million people are at risk of not being vaccinated as planned this year due to the interruption of vaccination campaigns in 26 countries. “Before there was a coronavirus crisis, the world was in the grip of a measles crisis, which has not gone away, underlines Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). Although the Covid-19 pandemic is weighing very heavily on health systems, our fight against one deadly disease cannot come at the expense of our fight against another. This requires ensuring that we have the necessary means to continue vaccination campaigns against all vaccine-preventable diseases, even as we fight against the growing Covid-19 pandemic..”
It is with this in mind that the WHO and Unicef launched last week an emergency appeal to fight the return of measles and polio epidemics, which is also making a comeback.
In France, vaccination against measles is compulsory for children aged one year. However, this does not prevent 6,000 cases of measles were reported in the territory between 2018 and 2019, according to figures from Public Health France.