Measles poses a threat to children as Covid ditched vaccinations

A growing number of children around the world are vulnerable to measles as vaccination rates drop to their lowest level since 2008, world health leaders warned on Wednesday.

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely disrupted routine vaccination services, causing millions of children to miss their measles shots, according to a report from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 81% of children worldwide received their first dose of measles vaccine in 2021, compared to 86% in 2019 before the start of the Covid pandemic. This leaves 25 million children vulnerable to measles, according to the report.

Public health experts estimate that 95% of children should be vaccinated against measles to prevent outbreaks. The measles vaccine comes in two doses, but the first shot is the most important because it is 93% effective in preventing the disease.

Over the past 20 years, steady progress has been made towards eliminating measles. According to the report, measles deaths worldwide dropped by 83% from 761,000 in 2000 to 128,000 in 2021 as vaccination coverage increased.

But CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern in separate statements on Wednesday that measles could return as vaccination rates have been declining for two years.

The US has officially eliminated measles for over 20 years, but travelers occasionally bring the virus into the country. This can cause outbreaks if the vaccination rate in their communities is too low, according to the CDC.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. It poses a serious health risk to children under 5, adults over 20, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

The virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can stay in the air for up to two hours. According to the CDC, measles is so contagious that an infected person will pass it on to 90% of their close contacts, who are not protected.

According to the CDC, one in five unvaccinated people with measles is hospitalized. One in 20 unvaccinated children who get measles develop pneumonia, 3 in 1,000 develop cerebral edema, and 3 in 1,000 die from respiratory or neurological complications.

Symptoms begin with high fever, which can reach over 104 degrees, cough and runny nose. Then white spots appear in the mouth, and a rash of red spots appears all over the body.

The two-dose vaccine is 97% effective in preventing measles. The first dose is administered at 1 year to 15 months of age and the second dose is administered at 4 to 6 years of age.