Measles Remains One of the Leading Causes of Death Among Young Children Globally

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If I could, I would post the pictures of every single child who died from measles – a vaccine-preventable disease. 

If I could, I would know their names and recognize their smiles, hear their voices and the trill of their echoing laughter.  I would hold them in my arms and welcome every reason to never let them go.

Would, that I could, allow these beautiful, innocent children whose lives have been reduced to nothing more than statistical data, collectively rise like a Phoenix from the ashes – and walk hand-in-hand with anti-vaxxers, who have denied them life and their right to preventative medicine. 

If I could, I would post the stories of all the parents that will never know who their children could have become.  Looking into their lachrymose eyes, I would feel sorrow and regret and listening to their voices, I would hear remorse through laboured breathing as each word would achingly trip from their quivering mouths.  

Embittered utterances of dolour can be heard around the world.  Millions upon millions of stories that encompass days of children’s lives remembered well, and then – of ultimate sadness and loss.

I would, if I could, remind anti-vaxxers that ‘this cause’ that you believe in and fight for has every capacity to steal the very thing you think you are protecting.  I am disheartened and appalled for all the children’s lives that have been sacrificed to support your misguided and uneducated claim.

Before the introduction of measles vaccinations in 1963, major epidemics occurred every two to three years and caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths every year – majority of them children under the age of five.  That’s not a claim; it’s a fact.

South Sudan

To protect 2.5 million children in South Sudan against measles, a nationwide campaign launched on February 4th, 2020, in cooperation between the Ministry of Health; Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; the World Health Organization (WHO); UNICEF and other partners.

Over 4,700 children have contracted measles and 26 children died.

“The measles virus is highly infectious.  It can cause rashes, eye infection, respiratory infections, diarrhea and even death,” said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative in South Sudan.

Although large areas of the targeted populations in South Sudan are difficult to reach, their goal is to attain over 95% vaccination coverage and interrupt the prevalence of this deadly disease.

“Every child has the same right to health and no child is too far,” said Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.

“We know how important herd immunity is to fight measles and protect the most vulnerable people that makes it even more important to reach the last child with this campaign.  There is a lot of love in taking your children to the nearest vaccination post.”

Children were also administered Vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets - crucial for their immune system to prevent blindness and the ability to fight diseases.

Thousands of Children Died in the Congo from Measles

Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of more than 11 million people. 

250,270 suspected cases with 5,110 associated deaths were reported by the DRC as of November 17, 2019.

Even though more than 18 million children under the age-of-five were vaccinated against measles in 2019, some areas remain as low as 25% in routine vaccination coverage.

“We are doing our utmost to bring this epidemic under control. Yet to be truly successful we must ensure that no child faces the unnecessary risk of death from a disease that is easily preventable by a vaccine. We urge our donor partners to urgently step up their assistance,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Since January 2019, about 310,000 suspected measles cases were reported.   The measles epidemic is largely due to low vaccination coverage in vulnerable communities, malnutrition, weak public health systems, outbreaks of other epidemic-prone diseases, and difficult terrain and access by vulnerable populations to health care facilities.

“We recognize the Government’s engagement in the efforts to end the outbreak and we are grateful for the generosity of our donors. But we still need to do more,” said Dr Amédée Prosper Djiguimdé, Officer in charge of WHO office in the DRC.

“Thousands of Congolese families need our help to lift the burden of this prolonged epidemic from their backs. We cannot achieve this without adequate finances.”

The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Médecins du Monde, Médecins Sans Frontières, United Nations Children’s Fund, WHO and other partners have been supporting the Government to bring the long-running epidemic under control.

WHO trained 60 health professionals from the Ministry of Health to conduct a range of services, including community engagement, health education and surveillance.

United States:  Highest Number of Measles Cases Since 1992

In 2019, the CDC reported that the United States had 1,282 confirmed cases of measles in 31 states. Of these cases, 128 children were hospitalized and 61 had complications including pneumonia and encephalitis.  This is the greatest number of measles cases reported in the US since 1992.

More than 73% of the confirmed cases were linked to outbreaks in New York where people were not vaccinated.

Statistics and Facts

Measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.  More than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018 – mostly children under the age of five.

413,308 confirmed measles cases were reported to the World Health Organization through official monthly reporting by 187 Member States in 2019.  Over 1,200 children died of measles in Madagascar alone.

From 2000 to 2018, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths.

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