More than 22 million babies did not receive their first dose of measles vaccine during 2020, according to a new WHO report – 3 million more than in 2019.
Only 70% of children received the second component of the vaccine, while at least 95% of those vaccinated are needed to form herd immunity. This is the largest increase in the number of children unvaccinated against measles in two decades, posing a threat to new outbreaks of the disease, experts said.
With 80% fewer measles cases reported in the world in the first year of the pandemic compared to 2019, the epidemiological surveillance of this disease has weakened dramatically. In particular, last year the lowest number of samples for analysis in ten years was sent to laboratories around the world. Large outbreaks of measles have occurred in 26 countries, accounting for 84% of all reported cases in 2020.
“In addition to deteriorating immunity worldwide, 24 planned vaccination campaigns have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving more than 93 million people at risk of measles,” the WHO and CDC said in a statement.
The experts urged the health authorities of all countries to make every effort to restore the previous routine measles vaccinations in order to close the herd immunity gaps. This must be done before the borders between countries are fully opened and restrictions on the movement of people are lifted.
Vaccination of children against measles was also postponed in Russia – for example, in the first six months of the pandemic in our country, more than 240 thousand one-year-old children did not receive vaccinations as planned. As the Head of the Department of Prevention of Infectious Diseases of the Children’s Scientific and Clinical Center for Infectious Diseases of the FMBA of Russia, Professor Susanna Kharit told MedPortal, if the number of unvaccinated in the population exceeds 10%, outbreaks of this disease inevitably occur.
Measles carried at any age poses a huge threat to human life, including because his acquired immunity to other infectious diseases decreases and disappears. This leads to an increase in morbidity and mortality from other infections within 2-3 years in those who have had measles, the professor said.