Title: Declining Vaccination Rates in Low-Income Countries Lead to Surge in Measles Cases and Deaths
In a worrying trend, low-income countries are witnessing a decline in their vaccination rates, resulting in a significant increase in measles cases, deaths, and outbreaks. According to a newly released report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated number of measles cases grew by 18% between 2021 and 2022, reaching a staggering 9.2 million cases.
The report further revealed a devastating 43% rise in measles-related deaths globally, with numbers escalating from 95,000 in 2021 to 136,200 in 2022. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the number of countries experiencing “large or disruptive outbreaks” jumped from 22 in 2021 to 37 in 2022, indicating a 68% increase.
Experts attribute the surge in measles cases and deaths to declining vaccination rates observed in recent years. Delays in immunization campaigns and limited access to healthcare services due to the COVID-19 pandemic have played a significant role in driving these alarming figures. Urgent and targeted efforts are now required to prevent the further spread of measles and subsequent casualties.
Between 2000 and 2019, there was a significant improvement in vaccine coverage worldwide, with the first MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) dose reaching 86% of the global population. However, the pandemic caused a setback, leading to a drop in coverage to 83% in 2020 and 81% in 2021. While there was a slight recovery in global coverage, reaching 83% in 2022, low-income countries continued to witness declining vaccination rates.
Coverage in low-income countries slumped from 71% in 2019 to 67% in 2021, and further plummeted to 66% in 2022. Alarmingly, more than half of the 22 million children who missed their first MMR vaccine dose in 2022 resided in ten countries, including Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
The lack of improvement in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries, even after the pandemic subsided, necessitates immediate action. Furthermore, global coverage for the second MMR dose remained at a disappointing 74% in 2022, significantly below the necessary 95% coverage required to safeguard communities from outbreaks.
As the world battles the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative that concerted efforts be made to ensure access to and the uptake of measles vaccines. The consequences of declining vaccination rates are severe, not only resulting in increased measles cases and deaths but also putting vulnerable populations at risk of other preventable diseases. Swift intervention is crucial to prevent further setbacks and safeguard population health worldwide.
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