An estimated 169 million children around the world missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 and this has created a pathway to the measles outbreaks that are affecting numerous countries today, a major new report from UNICEF has found.
According to UNICEF, over 21 million children per year missed out on the vaccine over this eight-year period, leaving ‘widening pockets of unvaccinated children'.
In the first three months of this year alone, over 110,000 measles cases were reported globally, a jump of almost 300% when compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile, an estimated 110,000 people, mostly children, died as a result of measles in 2017, a 22% increase when compared to 2016.
"The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago. 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," commented UNICEF executive director, Henrietta Fore.
Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an uptake rate of 95% to achieve ‘herd immunity'.
However, the report notes that in 2017, 85% of eligible people received the first dose, while just 67% received the second. This is due to a range of factors worldwide including lack of access, complacency and in some cases, fear or skepticism about vaccines.
The top three high-income countries where children were not vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017 were the US (2.59 million not vaccinated), France (608,000) and the UK (527,000).
The situation is even worse in poorer countries. In 2017 alone, four million children in Nigeria missed out on the first dose of the vaccine.
"Measles is far too contagious. It is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone," Ms Fore said.
In Ireland, the measles vaccine is offered to children as part of their routine immunisation schedule in the form of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.
The first dose is given by a child's GP at 12 months of age, while the second is given in primary school at four to five years of age.
For more information on the MMR vaccine, click here
Discussions on this topic are now closed.