Global Measles Deaths Surge 43% From 2021-2022 Amid Vaccination Decline

New Delhi: In a concerning reversal of progress, global measles deaths skyrocketed by 43% from 2021 to 2022, a consequence of waning vaccination rates, according to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The year 2022 saw 37 countries grapple with major measles outbreaks, up from 22 in 2021. The WHO identified 28 outbreaks in the African Region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean, two in South-East Asia, and one in Europe.

John Vertefeuille, Director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division, stated, “The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we have seen in the past few years.”

Measles, a highly contagious virus, spreads through respiratory droplets and can lead to severe complications and death. Despite a modest increase in global vaccination coverage in 2022, 33 million children missed a measles vaccine dose. Of these, nearly 22 million missed the first dose, and an additional 11 million missed the second. Global vaccine coverage rates for the first and second doses were 83% and 74%, respectively, well below the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks.

Low-income countries, with the highest risk of measles-related deaths, continue to have the lowest vaccination rates at only 66%, showing no improvement from pandemic-related setbacks. Over half of the 22 million children missing their first measles vaccine dose in 2022 reside in just 10 countries: Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

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