The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that measles has become a growing global threat because of disruptions to childhood vaccinations caused by the lockdowns in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published a study finding that more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of measles vaccine in 2020, 3 million more than in 2019, reported Joan Stephenson in an article for the JAMA Health Forum, an online publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The CDC and the World Health Organization, in a joint statement, said the increase in missed measles vaccinations was the largest in two decades, “creating dangerous conditions for outbreaks to occur.”
“Large numbers of unvaccinated children, outbreaks of measles, and disease detection and diagnostics diverted to support COVID-19 responses are factors that increase the likelihood of measles-related deaths and serious complications in children.”
Dr. Kevin Cain, CDC’s global immunization director, said governments “must act now to strengthen disease surveillance systems and close immunity gaps, before travel and trade return to pre-pandemic levels, to prevent deadly measles outbreaks and mitigate the risk of other vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Prior to the pandemic, considerable progress had been made against measles worldwide, with the estimated number of related deaths decreasing from about 1 million in 2000 to fewer than 61,000 in 2020.
It’s also estimated that more than 30 million deaths were averted by measles vaccination during that two-decade period.
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study concluded enhanced efforts are needed to immunize all children against measles with two doses of vaccine.
“It’s critical that countries vaccinate as quickly as possible against COVID-19, but this requires new resources so that it does not come at the cost of essential immunization programs,” said Dr. Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.
“Routine immunization must be protected and strengthened; otherwise, we risk trading one deadly disease for another.”
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