Measles: WHO warns of an explosion of cases around the world

Between 2022 and 2023 the number of cases jumped by 79%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The cause is the Covid-19 crisis which has caused measles vaccination to drop.

A child being vaccinated against measles and rubella in Caracas, Venezuela, August 17, 2022. © YURI CORTEZ / AFP

By: Pierre Olivier Follow


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According to WHO estimates, there will have been more than 9 million cases of measles across the world in 2023. This is almost 80% more than in 2022. For the World Health Organization, it is the Covid-19 epidemic which is mainly responsible.

For several years, vaccination against measles was neglected in favor of

vaccination against the coronavirus


The WHO also points to the role played by competing problems such as economic crises and wars around the world, which have slowed measles vaccination and no longer made it a priority for governments.

Aside from the Americas, all regions of the world are affected by this upsurge.

In Europe, more than 30,000 cases of measles were recorded last year according to the WHO, thirty times more than in 2022. Kazakhstan and Russia are the most affected countries with more than 10,000 cases each.

France remains relatively spared thanks to compulsory vaccination of infants since 2018. 

In Africa, Operation “Grand Catch-up” was renewed in 2024 in order to restore the progress lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than six million children need to receive two doses of measles vaccine.

Children who live mainly in Nigeria (due to the high fertility rate), Angola, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Ten times more contagious than Covid-19

To curb the measles epidemic, 95% of children in a given population must be vaccinated.

But in 2023, the global average did not exceed 83% compared to 86% in 2019. Consequence: in 2023, there were 51 major measles epidemics in the world compared to 32 in 2022 according to Natasha Crowcroft, technical advisor for measles and rubella within the WHO.

Ten times more contagious than Covid-19

, measles, which is transmitted through the air, can also be fatal.

Already in 2022, when the number of contaminations had not yet jumped, the number of deaths attributed to the virus exceeded 130,000. The figures for 2023 are not yet known.

Read alsoDRC: in displaced persons camps, children suffer from a measles epidemic in Masisi


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