Published: Sat, December 01, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Measles vaccine campaign kicks off

Measles vaccine campaign kicks off

While the US saw an increase of nearly 40 percent during that period, only two states in the Mountain West region reported measles cases.

Reported cases of measles worldwide surged by almost a third a year ago, partly because parents did not vaccinate their children, health organizations said Thursday. Reports say that Measles -Rubella kills almost 49,600 children every year in the country.

"The resurgence of measles is of serious concern, with extended outbreaks occurring across regions, and particularly in countries that had achieved, or were close to achieving measles elimination", Soumya Swaminathan, the deputy director general for Programmes at World Health Organization, said in a statement. From 2000 to 2017, for instance, the annual number of measles-related deaths dropped 80 percent - from a toll of over half a million to just under 110,000 previous year.

In total, the report finds global incidence of the disease has increased by more than 30 percent from 2016.

Measles can cause severe diarrhea, pneumonia, hearing loss, and even mental disorders in youngsters. Regions that do not have a high rate of vaccine coverage, whether due to a lack of access or conscious rejection by parents, are susceptible to a rise in measles - even relapses in areas where the disease had been almost or entirely eliminated. "Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunised children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease". It's also the only region to achieve and sustain 95% or greater coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine since 2006. Health officials have put the blame for the immunity problem partly on parental neglect and the mistaken belief that vaccines can cause autism and other afflictions. Second dose coverage is 67 percent.

"The increase in measles cases is deeply concerning, but not surprising", said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Conversely, a country is no longer considered to be measles free if the virus returns and transmission is sustained continuously for more than a year. "Otherwise we will continue chasing one outbreak after another", he said.

So, the question is how do we encourage a generation of parents who have never had reason to fear measles, to stick to vaccine schedules, and without it having to result in outbreaks?

Under the direction of the ministry of health and family welfare, the vaccination campaign has been initiated in a phased manner across the nation and will cover approximately 41 crore children.

The agencies also call for actions to build broad-based public support for immunizations, while tackling misinformation and hesitancy around vaccines where these exist.

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