Measles Outbreaks Rising Due To Vaccination Interruption Attributed To COVID-19 Pandemic

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The resurgence of measles, a highly contagious childhood disease, is becoming evident as the world recuperates from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite previous efforts to eradicate it through vaccination, measles is reappearing in numerous countries.

Measles outbreaks on the rise globally

During the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Global Congress in Spain, experts warned about the rising frequency and scale of measles outbreaks worldwide. Dr. Patrick O’Connor from the World Health Organization in Switzerland delivered a serious evaluation of the current global measles situation.

Dr. O’Connor reports that the total measles cases in 2024 may surpass the 321,582 cases in 2023. Delays in reporting suggest the actual figure could be higher than the 94,481 cases reported by April. This rise continues a worrying trend, as the 2023 cases were nearly double those in 2022. The WHO European Region has seen almost half of this year’s cases, with countries like Yemen, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan reporting the highest rates globally. Surprisngly, the number of countries with significant outbreaks has tripled in a year, reaching 51.

In recent years, there has been notable advancement in the quest for measles and rubella elimination. Dr. O’Connor highlights that Regional Verification Commissions worldwide will assess national reports on measles and rubella for 2023 in 2024. The persistence of large outbreaks and ongoing measles transmission poses challenges to achieving and sustaining elimination. Vaccination stands out as the crucial measure in halting measles spread, given its rapid transmission among unvaccinated individuals.

COVID-19 affected vaccination rates for measles

Dr. O’Connor emphasizes the importance of high and equitable immunization coverage to prevent measles outbreaks due to its high infectivity. Hanna Nohynek, a professor from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, highlights the rise in global measles cases in 2019, especially in Africa with low vaccine coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily slowed measles spread but disrupted routine childhood vaccinations, leaving many children vulnerable.

Nohynek highlights that due to the pandemic, a significant number of children have not received their vaccinations, leading to a resurgence of cases in different global areas.

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