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Measles Eradication Progress Stalled

Measles Eradication
The World Health Organization recently announced that progress toward eradicating measles has stalled. Since 2012, measles-related deaths have increased from 122,000 to almost 148,000 worldwide. According to the WHO, this means that 2015 eradication targets will not be met.

Overall, the number of measles deaths in 2013 shows a 75 percent decrease since the year 2000. However, this is significantly lower than the Millennium Development Goal of a 95 percent decrease between 2000 and 2015.

Global coverage of initial measles vaccines expanded to 83 percent by 2009, but this number has since remained stagnant.

Failed efforts to vaccinate children from measles make them prone to serious health issues including pneumonia, encephalitis, diarrhea and blindness. Developing countries currently account for the highest percentage of measles-related deaths. The latest statistics from 2013 report that 70 percent of measles deaths took place in just 6 countries including India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The last decade has seen impressive advancements toward eradicating measles, and approximately 15.6 million deaths have been avoided from 2000 to 2013. Still, reports show that these leaps in progress have lately been diminishing.

Recent increases in measles cases were due in part to considerable outbreaks in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. Many countries around Europe have also seen a re-emergence in disease diagnoses including Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine. These regions are burdened by poor healthcare systems, conflict and population displacement, causing forestallments to vaccination efforts.

In addition, many countries are now experiencing reduced funding for measles eradication campaigns. This lack of support has hindered progress in eliminating the disease, causing measles cases to rise.

“The net effect of reduced global funding by governments and partners has caused postponed and suboptimal immunization campaigns, resulting in large outbreaks that threaten our hard earned gains,” said UNICEF’s Senior Health Advisor, Robert Kezaala.

Members of the Measles & Rubella Initiative state that in order to recommence progress in eliminating the disease, organizations must promote measles awareness and the dangers surrounding the disease.

Additionally, obstacles that are preventing vaccination advancements must be addressed.

Dr. Peter Strebel of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals urges countries to take action against measles. “Countries urgently need to prioritize maintaining and improving immunization coverage. Failure to reverse this alarming trend could jeopardize the momentum generated by a decade of achievements in reducing measles mortality,” says Strebel.

Meagan Douches

Sources: Think Progress, Reuters, Measles Rubella Initiative, WHO
Photo: Karmavision