A joint publication by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published recently highlights an alarming rise in measles cases, disruptive outbreaks and deaths in 2022.
Measles cases globally in 2022 are reported to have increased by 18% to over 9 million, deaths went up by 43% (136,200) compared to 2021, while 37 countries experienced outbreaks in 2022.
The findings reiterate the continued need for accelerated efforts to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen health systems, especially in the lower-income countries most impacted by this deadly disease.
Of the 22 million children who missed their first measles vaccine dose in 2022, more than half live in just ten countries, six of which are lower-income countries supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Madagascar, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Aurélia Nguyen, Chief Programme Officer at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance comments: “Measles is a highly contagious and deadly disease: preventing outbreaks requires consistently vaccinating at least 95% of eligible children.
“This was already challenging before the COVID-19 pandemic, and with cases, outbreaks and preventable deaths rising so sharply due to increased immunity gaps related to the pandemic, it shows how even more important it is that our Alliance provides an unprecedented level of support to countries in 2024.”
With routine immunisation hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2023 Gavi supported nine lower-income countries in accelerated efforts to plan and launch measles and measles-rubella follow-up vaccination campaigns, and disbursed more than US$ 12 million to support outbreak response in six countries.
An additional three preventive vaccination campaigns are planned before the end of this year. In response to the sustained and alarming trend in measles cases, in 2024 Gavi will support a record number of lower-income countries – at least 15 in total – to undertake measles and rubella preventive vaccination campaigns aiming to reach about 38.5 million children, in addition to routine vaccine introductions and outbreak response.
The Vaccine Alliance supports measles immunisation activities in lower-income countries in close collaboration with WHO, UNICEF, CDC, American Red Cross, UN Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners, including through the Measles & Rubella Partnership (M&RP).