Over 20m kids a year missed out on measles vaccine from 2010 to 2017

A child in the United States getting the measles, mumps and rubella shot in February. Among high-income countries, the US had the most children missing the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 - more than 2.5 million children. The
A child in the United States getting the measles, mumps and rubella shot in February. Among high-income countries, the US had the most children missing the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 - more than 2.5 million children. The country has recorded 695 cases of measles this year.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON • More than 20 million children a year missed out on the measles vaccine across the world between 2010 and 2017, laying a path of exposure to a virus that is now causing disease outbreaks globally, a United Nations report said yesterday.

"The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children," said Ms Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).

She added: "The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago."

The Unicef report said an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 - equating to 21.1 million children a year on average.

As a result of greater vulnerability to the disease, the measles infections worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of this year against the same period last year, to 112,163 cases, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data.

In 2017, some 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles - up 22 per cent from the year before, Unicef said.

  • 169m

    Number of children who missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.

    112k

    Number of measles infections worldwide in the first quarter of this year, almost four times as many as the same period last year.

    110k

    Number of people, mostly children, who died from measles in 2017, 22 per cent more than in 2016.

    85%

    Global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine in 2017. The World Health Organisation says 95 per cent coverage is needed for "herd immunity".

    2.5m

    Number of children who missed the first dose of the measles vaccine in the US between 2010 and 2017. 

Measles is a highly contagious disease that can kill and cause blindness, deafness or brain damage.

It is currently spreading in outbreaks in many parts of the world, including in the United States, Europe, the Philippines, Tunisia and Thailand.

Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children, and the WHO says 95 per cent vaccine coverage is needed for "herd immunity" against measles.

But due to a lack of access, poor health systems, complacency and, in some cases, fear or scepticism about vaccines, Unicef said, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85 per cent in 2017 - a level that has remained similar for the past decade.

Global coverage for the second dose is even lower, at 67 per cent.

Among high-income countries, the United States - which is currently fighting its biggest measles outbreak in almost 20 years - topped Unicef's list of places with the most children missing the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million.

EVER-PRESENT DANGER

The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children.

MS HENRIETTA FORE, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund.

The country has recorded 695 cases of measles this year, the most of any year since the disease was declared eliminated at the turn of the century, officials said on Wednesday.

Next among the high-income countries came France and Britain, with more than 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated children, respectively, during the 2010-2017 period.

 
 

In poorer countries, however, the situation is "critical", Unicef's report found. Nigeria in 2017, for example, had the highest number of children under one year old who missed out on the first dose, at nearly four million.

It was followed by India, with 2.9 million, Pakistan and Indonesia, with 1.2 million each, and Ethiopia, with 1.1 million.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2019, with the headline 'Over 20m kids a year missed out on measles vaccine from 2010 to 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe