The measles vaccine saves over 20 million young lives in 15 years, but hundreds of children still die of the disease every day.
Despite a 79% worldwide decrease in measles deaths between 2000 and 2015, nearly 400 children still die from the disease every day, leading health organizations said in a report released on 10 Novemeber.
“Making measles history is not mission impossible,” said Robin Nandy, UNICEF Immunization Chief. “We have the tools and the knowledge to do it; what we lack is the political will to reach every single child, no matter how far. Without this commitment, children will continue to die from a disease that is easy and cheap to prevent.”
Mass measles vaccination campaigns and a global increase in routine measles vaccination coverage saved an estimated 20.3 million young lives between 2000 and 2015.
But progress has been uneven. In 2015, about 20 million infants missed their measles shots and an estimated 134,000 children died from the disease – measles is still one of the leading causes of death among young children globally.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan account for half of the unvaccinated infants and 75% of the measles deaths last year.
“It is not acceptable that millions of children miss their vaccines every year. We have a safe and highly effective vaccine to stop the spread of measles and save lives,” said Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.
“This year, the Region of the Americas was declared free of measles – proof that elimination is possible. Now, we must stop measles in the rest of the world. It starts with vaccination.”
“Measles is a key indicator of the strength of a country’s immunization systems and, all too often, it ends up being the canary in the coalmine with outbreaks acting as the first warning of deeper problems,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“To address one of the world’s most deadly vaccine-preventable childhood killers we need strong commitments from countries and partners to boost routine immunization coverage and to strengthen surveillance systems.”