THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned of a serious outbreak of measles across the world, particularly in Nigeria and four other countries where the disease is rife.
Measles cases surged worldwide in the first two months of 2022, with almost 17,338 cases reported in January and February 2022, compared with 9,665 during the first two months of 2021, the report revealed.
“As of April 2022, the agencies report 21 large and disruptive measles outbreaks around the world in the last 12 months. Most of the measles cases were reported in Africa and the East Mediterranean region. The figures are likely higher as the pandemic has disrupted surveillance systems globally, with potential underreporting.”
Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Ethiopia are identified with the largest measles outbreak in the past 12 months. Insufficient measles vaccine coverage is the major reason for outbreaks, wherever they occur, said UNICEF.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted immunization services, health systems have been overwhelmed, and we are now seeing a resurgence of deadly diseases including measles. For many other diseases, the impact of these disruptions to immunization services will be felt for decades to come,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“Now is the moment to get essential immunization back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everybody can have access to these life-saving vaccines,” he added.
The report added that the 19 measles campaigns that were supposed to take place in 43 countries as of April 1, 2022, which were postponed, had put 73 million children at risk of measles due to missed vaccinations.
“Coverage at or above 95 per cent with two doses of the safe and effective measles vaccine can protect children against measles. However, COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions have delayed the introduction of the second dose of the measles vaccine in many countries.”
The agencies, however, harp on restoring services and vaccination campaigns for countries to safely deliver routine immunisation programmes to fill the gaps.
“Rectifying gaps in immunization coverage, including identifying communities and people who have been missed during the pandemic.”
'Niyi works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @niyi_oyedeji.