United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that 21.1 million children miss out of measles vaccine yearly, releasing top ten countries where children are not vaccinated with second measles vaccine.
It said that an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.
In high-income countries, while coverage with the first dose is 94 per cent, coverage for the second dose drops to 91 per cent based on the latest data.
The countries listed: United States which is 2,593,000 children; France 608,000; United Kingdom 527,000; Argentina: 438,000; Italy 435,000; and Japan: 374,000.
Others are Canada 287,000, Germany 168,000, Australia 138,000 and Chile 136,000.
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, attributed the data or analysis to UNICEF and WHO ‘s estimation of national immunization coverage of 194 countries for 2017.
Fore lamented that a large number of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today.
She further lamented that due to lack of vaccination million infants were at higher risk of measles during their childhood annually. .
“The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago.
“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of the dangerous, but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child in rich and poor countries,” Fore said.
In comparison the executive director noted that an estimated 110,000 people, mostly children, died from the disease in 2017 describing it as representing 22 per cent increase in 2016.
According to her, two doses of measles vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease.
She however blamed the wide gap in vaccination to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases fear or skepticism about vaccines.
Fore who specifically identified the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine as 85 per cent in 2017 added that the figure has remained relatively constant over the last decade in spite population growth.
“Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a threshold of 95 per cent immunization coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity,” .
“Worldwide coverage levels of the second dose of the vaccines are even more alarming. Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, nine have not introduced the second dose.
“Twenty-countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not the first measles vaccine dose between 2010 and 2017,” she noted.
Specifically, Fore described Nigeria as having the highest number of children that have not received the first dose of measles vaccines in low income countries of about four million followed by Indonesia 1.2 million.
Fore noted due to lack of vaccination million infants were at higher risk of measles during their childhood yearly.
However, she noted that UNICEF in partnership with the Measles and Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance among others were helping to address this measles crisis by negotiating vaccine prices.
Fore noted “The cost of the measles vaccine is now at an all-time low,”.
According to her, the organisations are helping countries identify underserved areas and unreached children; procuring vaccines and other immunization supplies and supporting supplementary vaccination campaigns to address gaps in routine immunization coverage;
“We are also working with relevant countries to introduce the second dose of measles vaccine in the national immunization schedule. Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria are on track to do so in 2019.
“We are Introducing innovations like the use of solar power and mobile technologies to maintain vaccines at the right temperature.
“Measles is far too contagious. 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.”Fore noted. (NAN)