Global Measles Cases See Dramatic Surge, Say Top Health Organizations

'Staggering' rise in global measles cases last year, say leading health organizations


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“Measles Cases and Deaths Surge in 2022: WHO and CDC Report”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a joint statement revealing a concerning spike in measles cases and deaths in 2022. According to the report, there was an 18 per cent increase in measles cases, totaling an estimated nine million, and deaths rose to 136,000. The majority of these deaths occurred among children, making this an alarming and heartbreaking trend.

“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,” stated John Vertefeuille, director of the CDC’s global immunization division. This surge in measles cases can be attributed, in part, to the massive disruption of routine immunization efforts worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The slow bounce back from this disruption has undoubtedly contributed to this devastating rise in measles cases and deaths.

One of the most contagious viruses

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses in the world, yet it is preventable by two doses of vaccine. However, in 2022, 22 million children worldwide missed their first dose, and an additional 11 million missed their second dose. While this marks a slight improvement from the previous year, the situation in low-income countries, where the risk of dying from measles is highest, has not recovered at all since the pandemic. This is evidenced by the fact that coverage rates in these countries are only at 66 per cent on average, far below the 95 per cent needed to prevent outbreaks.

This is a concerning “alarm bell for action” for countries and global health stakeholders, as stated by WHO’s director of immunization, Kate O’Brien. The need for increased efforts to ensure vaccination coverage and prevent further measles outbreaks cannot be emphasized enough.

In Canada, while there have been only a handful of current active measles cases and 10 reported cases in total in 2023, the country also experienced a drop in routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, including measles immunizations. For instance, Ottawa Public Health reported that around 15,000 children missed receiving a dose of the MMR or MMR-V vaccine between 2020 and 2022.

In light of the concerning resurgence of measles cases and deaths, it is evident that urgent and comprehensive action is needed to address the declining vaccination rates and ensure that children and vulnerable populations are protected from this preventable disease. The devastating impact of measles outbreaks extends far beyond the immediate health consequences, affecting communities and societies at large. It is crucial for governments, healthcare organizations, and individuals to prioritize and support vaccination efforts to combat this alarming trend.

The WHO and CDC’s report serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of vaccination in safeguarding public health. It is a call to action for countries and global health stakeholders to work together to strengthen immunization programs and prevent further outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. The future health and well-being of our communities depend on our collective commitment to prioritize and uphold vaccination as a fundamental pillar of public health.


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