NEW YORK/Vientiane, 26 April 2019 – An estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, or 21.1 million children a year on average, UNICEF said today
In East Asia and Pacific region, nearly 28 million children in 2017 were vaccinated against measles, however, more than 2 million children missed out in the same year. This has been the pattern every year for the past 2-3 years, making children in the region more vulnerable to measles outbreaks. In Lao PDR, the Ministry of Health estimates that 350,153 children missed out on the first dose between 2010 and 2017, a yearly average of 43,769 children.
Widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today.
“The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”
In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide – up nearly 300 per cent from the same period last year. An estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, a 22 per cent increase from the year before. In Lao PDR, the number of suspected measles cases has increased from 10 cases in 2018 to 379 cases in 2019, an epidemic affecting 10 provinces.
Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease. However, due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases fear or skepticism about vaccines, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85 per cent in 2017, a figure that has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth. Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent. The World Health Organization recommends a threshold of 95 per cent immunization coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity’. In Lao PDR the coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 82 per cent in 2017, also below what WHO recommends.
The United States tops the list of high-income countries with the most children not receiving the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million. It is followed by France and the United Kingdom, with over 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated infants, respectively, during the same period.
In low- and middle-income countries, the situation is critical. In 2017, for example, Nigeria had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose, at nearly 4 million. It was followed by India (2.9 million), Pakistan and Indonesia (1.2 million each), and Ethiopia (1.1 million).
Worldwide Lao PDR coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are even more alarming. Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, 9 have not introduced the second dose. Twenty-countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not introduced the necessary second dose in the national vaccination schedule, putting over 17 million infants a year at higher risk of measles during their childhood. In Lao PDR coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are low and stand at 63 per cent.
- Negotiating vaccine prices: the cost of the measles vaccine is now at an all-time low;
- Helping countries identify underserved areas and unreached children;
- Procuring vaccines and other immunization supplies;
- Supporting supplementary vaccination campaigns to address gaps in routine immunization coverage;
- Working with relevant countries to introduce the second dose of the measles vaccine in the national immunization schedule. Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria are on track to do so in 2019.
- Introducing innovations like the use of solar power and mobile technologies to maintain vaccines at the right temperature.
UNICEF is supporting the Government of Lao PDR with procurement and supply of measles/rubella vaccine for routine immunization activities and campaigns, health facility and community quarterly reviews to improve measles /rubella second dose vaccination coverage in six low performing provinces. In addition, UNICEF is supporting the production and distribution of job aid materials and posters, and dissemination of audio messages and other information, education and communication materials to increase awareness about measles and rubella and to highlight the importance of vaccination.
“Measles is far too contagious,” said Fore. “It is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone.”
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About the Analysis
The analysis is based on UNICEF and WHO’s estimation of national immunization coverage of 194 countries for 2017. Provisional measles and rubella data is based on monthly data reported to WHO Geneva in April 2019. For high income countries, follow the World Bank country classification by income in July 2018.
About World Immunization Week
Celebrated in the last week of April, World Immunization Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Find more details about UNICEF’s WIW efforts , click here.
About Measles and Rubella Initiative
UNICEF is part of the Measles and Rubella Initiative, a private-public partnership including WHO, CDC, United Nations Foundation and American Red Cross that spearheads a global push towards measles and rubella elimination and control.
For more information, please contact:
Sabrina Sidhu, UNICEF New York, +1 917 4761537, firstname.lastname@example.org
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.