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Pakistan among 10 countries where children missed first measles vaccine

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Pakistan among 10 countries where children missed first measles vaccine

Low-income countries, where risk of death from measles is highest, continue to have lowest vaccination rates at only 66%

A child receives medical treatment at the Mirwais hospital in Kandahar. — AFP/File
A child receives medical treatment at the Mirwais hospital in Kandahar. — AFP/File
  • Cases increase by 18%, deaths by 43% in 2022. 
  • 37 countries witnessed large measles outbreaks.
  • Cases seen mostly among children, says WHO. 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is among the 10 low and middle-income countries where 22 million children missed their first measles vaccine dose last year, The News reported Friday.  

The cases of measles increased by 18% and deaths by 43% in 2022 as compared to the preceding year, taking the tally of cases to 9 million and deaths to 136,000 which is mostly among children. 

This was published in a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Measles continues to pose a relentlessly increasing threat to children. In 2022, as many as 37 countries experienced large or disruptive measles outbreaks in contrast to 22 countries in 2021. Of the countries experiencing outbreaks, 28 were in the WHO Region for Africa, six in the Eastern Mediterranean, two in South-East Asia and one in the European Region.

“The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years,” said John Vertefeuille, director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division. 

“Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”

Measles is preventable with two doses of vaccine, however, around 33 million children missed a measles vaccine dose in 2022 — nearly 22 million missed the first dose and 11 million missed the second dose. 

The global vaccine coverage rate of the first dose at 83% and the second dose at 74% were still well under 95% coverage with two doses that are necessary to protect communities from outbreaks.

Low-income countries, where the risk of death from measles is highest, continue to have the lowest vaccination rates at only 66%. Half of the children who missed their first dose belong to 10 countries, including Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines.

“The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries following the pandemic is an alarm bell for action. Measles is the disease that attacks those who aren’t protected,” said Kate O’Brien, WHO Director for Immunization, Vaccine and Biologicals.

CDC and WHO urge countries to vaccinate all children against measles as well as other vaccine-preventable diseases, and encourage global stakeholders to aid countries to vaccinate their most vulnerable communities.

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