Concern as measles cases sharply rise
There is a significant increase in measles cases and deaths, according to new data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The rise in measles cases in 2017 was threatening years of public health progress and pointing to gaps in vaccination coverage worldwide.
The data released on Thursday was compiled by WHO and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Negative misinformation, mistrust in immunisation and experts making accusations against the vaccine without any evidence have had an impact on parents' decisions to take their children for immunisation.
The agency revealed that between 2016 and 2017, reported measles cases increased by 31 per cent globally.
This is different from 2000 to 2016 when prevalence dropped by 83 per cent, saving about 21 million lives and resulting in an 80 percent decline in measles mortality, the new data shows.
Some 173,000 cases were officially reported worldwide in 2017, a jump of more than 30 percent from the previous year. The true number of cases is estimated at 6.7 million last year, WHO said.
An estimated 110,000 people died last year, mainly children, from the preventable disease.
Germany, the Russian Federation and Venezuela had large measles outbreaks last year, leading to the withdrawal of their certification for having interrupted transmission, the WHO said.
“We are seeing an uptick looking at the 2018 data and this uptick appears to be sustained so we are worried that what may begin as a spike is becoming a trend,” said Dr Martin Friede, WHO'S director of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals.
Global vaccine coverage for the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85 percent, while 95 percent is needed to prevent outbreaks, the report said. Second dose coverage is 67 percent.
“The majority of the children who miss out (on vaccination) live in the poorest and most disadvantaged communities around the world, many in conflict areas,” he said.
In Kenya, babies are often vaccinated in two doses; one at nine months and the next at four years. However, the programme faced problems occasioned by the almost five-month nurses' strike last year.
This means the country is staring at a crisis as thousands of children went without immunisation. The national coverage has dropped from 85 to 68 percent, according to data from the Health ministry, although WHO recommends 95 percent coverage in the first dose to prevent outbreaks.