The worrisome situation is attributed to the growing number of unimmunised children.
Measles is still a major health risk in poor and rich countries alike. According to health experts, the situation is the result of the increasing number of children who miss vaccinations because of misinformation or sheer negligence on the part of their parents.
Figures released on April 26, 2019 are based on United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and World Health Organisation, WHO estimates of the number of children immunised against diseases in 194 countries in 2017.
Globally, 169 million children missed the first dose of vaccine over seven years, the report said. As many as 20 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa did not introduce a second dose, thereby putting more than 17 million infants a year at greater risk of getting measles, UNICEF reported.
Worldwide, some 85 per cent of children received the first dose vaccination in 2017, but only 67 per cent had the concluding second dose of the measles vaccine, UNICEF disclosed. Estimates show that between 2010 and 2017, the United States topped the list of the number of unvaccinated children in high-income countries with 2.5 million missing the first dose vaccine. France was at 600,000 and the United Kingdom, UK came third, with 527,000 children not getting their first dose of the vaccine over the seven-year period.
On the other hand, some 4 million Nigerian children under one year did not get the first dose vaccine, the study said. According to UNICEF, a combination of complacency, misinformation, scepticism about immunisation, and a lack of access to immunization, led to low vaccination rates globally. The latest disclosures came as the UK’s National Health Service, NHS Chief, Simon Stevens, warned that measles cases had almost quadrupled in just one year. He said rejecting vaccines was a “growing public health time bomb.”
“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “A single person with measles will be able to infect 90 unvaccinated people.
Measles is highly infectious, even before rashes appear. We must protect children and communities against this potentially very serious, but entirely preventable infectious disease – and the only way to do this is through vaccination,” Prof. Beate Kampmann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine noted.