Measles in India

The respiratory disease measles remains a leading cause of death among young children, despite the fact that a safe and effective vaccine has been available for 40 years. Measles is an acute illness caused by a virus of the paramyxovirus family. 

It is one of the most contagious diseases and many children who do not have sufficient immunity contract measles if exposed. During the first few weeks after contracting measles, a child’s immune system becomes weakened, and a normal cold or diarrhoea can become a life threatening illness.

Fast Facts

Globally, an estimated 450 people, mostly children, die every day from measles despite the fact that an effective and safe vaccine is available at low cost. 

It costs less than $1 to vaccinate a child against measles. 

A global goal to reduce measles deaths by 90 per cent by 2010 was set at the World Health Assembly in May 2005. 

Despite global successes in reducing measles deaths, an estimated 164,000 people died from measles in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.

In November 2010, the Government of India introduced a second dose of measles vaccination drive in 14 high-risk states, targeting 134 million children, to prevent an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 child deaths annually.


The global reduction in death from measles reflects support and commitment by the Measles Initiative to boosting immunization coverage and by national governments to following the World Health Organization (WHO ) / UNICEF comprehensive strategy for reducing measles mortality. This strategy consists of four key components:

• Providing at least one dose of measles vaccine at routine vaccination coverage of at least 90 per cent of children, administered at nine months of age or shortly after.

• Giving all children a second opportunity for measles vaccination.

• Establishing effective surveillance.

• Improving clinical management of complicated cases – including vitamin A supplementation.

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