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Measles vaccination in the Philippines (image from 2019)


Rouelle Umali/ XinHua/ DPA

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of cases and deaths from measles rose last year – because not enough people have been vaccinated for years. Last year, 37 countries experienced major outbreaks, compared to 22 the year before. The WHO estimates 136,000 deaths worldwide, 43 percent more than the year before, and around nine million cases (up 18 percent), as it reported in Geneva. According to the report, children are particularly affected.

"Measles is called the inequality virus for good reason. It is the disease that finds and affects those who are not protected," said Kate O'Brien, WHO director of immunization, vaccines and biologics, according to a statement. Children everywhere have the right to be protected by the life-saving measles vaccine, no matter where they live."

Measles is a very contagious viral infectious disease. It is transmitted by droplets, for example when infected people cough or sneeze. Infected people usually first have fever, cough, runny nose and inflammation in the nasopharynx, then a rash. Every tenth person affected suffers from complications, including life-threatening encephalitis. Measles can be prevented with two doses of vaccine.

Around 83 percent of people worldwide have received a first vaccine dose in their lifetime, 74 percent a second. However, according to the WHO, 95 percent of people would have to be vaccinated to prevent major outbreaks. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted vaccination programs in many countries. It is alarming that even after the pandemic, comprehensive vaccination is not yet being carried out there again. Countries in Africa are particularly affected, but also India, Indonesia and Brazil. Since 2000, more than 56 million lives have been saved by vaccination, according to the WHO.

"The rise in measles outbreaks and deaths is frightening, but unfortunately not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we've seen in recent years," said John Vertefeuille, director of the CDC's Global Immunization Division, which also contributed to the report. "Measles cases everywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are not adequately vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to preventing measles and deaths."