Nov. 10 (Reuters) – The risk of measles outbreaks is high after more than 22 million infants missed their first vaccine doses during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) warned.
The number of reported measles cases dropped by more than 80% last year compared to 2019, but a higher number of children missing their vaccine dose leaves them vulnerable, a joint report from the WHO and the US CDC found Wednesday.
About 3 million more children missed the shots in 2020 than the year before, the largest increase in two decades, threatening global efforts to eventually eradicate the highly contagious viral disease.
“Large numbers of unvaccinated children, measles outbreaks, and disease detection and diagnosis being diverted to support COVID-19 responses are factors that increase the likelihood of measles-related deaths and serious complications in children,” said Kevin Cain, the director of the study. head of the US CDC. said.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known, surpassing COVID-19, Ebola, tuberculosis or the flu. It can be especially dangerous for infants and young children, with possible complications of pneumonia.
In 2019, reported measles cases were the highest in nearly a quarter of a century.
The latest report says 24 measles vaccination campaigns originally planned for 2020 in 23 countries have been postponed, putting more than 93 million people at risk.
“It is critical that countries vaccinate against COVID-19 as soon as possible, but this requires new resources so that it does not come at the expense of essential immunization programs,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s immunization division, vaccines and biologics.
“Routine immunization needs to be protected and strengthened, otherwise we risk trading one deadly disease for another,” she said.
Reporting by Amna Karimi and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath
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