Romania ranked among the first ten countries with the highest incidence of measles last year, warns a recent WHO/UNICEF report. The immunisation ratio with the first dose of anti-measles vaccine stood at 90% in our country last year, while it mounted to 95% in 2010. Early this year, the Romanian Health Ministry has launched together with UNICEF a campaign to promote vaccination “Childhood-the best gift” amid decline in the vaccination rate and amid growing number of children who died of measles.
Stark disparities in vaccine access persist across and within countries of all income levels. This has resulted in devastating measles outbreaks in many parts of the world – including countries that have high overall vaccination rates.
In 2018, almost 350,000 measles cases were reported globally, more than doubling from 2017.
“Measles is a real-time indicator of where we have more work to do to fight preventable diseases,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Because measles is so contagious, an outbreak points to communities that are missing out on vaccines due to access, costs or, in some places, complacency. We have to exhaust every effort to immunize every child,” she added.
Ukraine leads a varied list of countries with the highest reported incidence rate of measles in 2018. While the country has now managed to vaccinate over 90 per cent of its infants, coverage had been low for several years, leaving a large number of older children and adults at risk. Congo and Madagascar are coming second and third on the podium. Romania ranks 10th.
Several other countries with high incidence and high coverage have significant groups of people who have missed the measles vaccine in the past. This shows how low coverage over time or discrete communities of unvaccinated people can spark deadly outbreaks.
The overall picture
20 million children worldwide – more than 1 in 10 – missed out on lifesaving vaccines such as measles, diphtheria and tetanus in 2018, according to new data from WHO and UNICEF.
Globally, since 2010, vaccination coverage with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) and one dose of the measles vaccine has stalled at around 86 per cent. While high, this is not sufficient. 95 per cent coverage is needed – globally, across countries, and communities – to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe,” said Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind. Unacceptably, it’s often those who are most at risk– the poorest, the most marginalized, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes – who are persistently missed,” he said.
Most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-affected states. Almost half are in just 16 countries – Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
If these children do get sick, they are at risk of the severest health consequences, and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care.