The WHO and US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have, in a joint statement, said the surge in measles cases globally is being caused by a decline in vaccine coverage, weakened surveillance, and continued interruptions in immunisation due to Covid. This comes against the backdrop of an increase in measles cases in India.
In 2021, the joint statement said, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose — 25 million children missed their first dose and 14. 7 million missed their second jab. Measles, which is caused by a respiratory virus and mostly affects children, is one of the most contagious viruses that attack humans. Though there is notreatment available, the disease is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. The WHO and CDC say coverage of 95% or greater of two doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed to create herd immunity. “The world is well under that, with only 81% of kids receiving their first measles-containing vaccine dose, and 71% of children receiving their second dose,” the health bodies said.
In India, the health ministry said on Wednesday, the first dose coverage of measlesand rubella containing vaccine (MRCV) is 89% and that of second dose is 82%, nationally. The ministry has written to Maharashtra, where at least 12 kids have died due to measles over the past few days, to administer one dose of MRCV to all children aged ‘six months and above’ to ‘less than nine months’ in areas where measles cases in the age group of ‘less than nine months’ are above 10% of the total cases.
The ministry also advised the Maharashtra government to administer one additional dose of MRCV to all children aged between nine months to five years in areas where there’s beena surge of cases. This dose would be in addition to the first two doses. Some cases of the disease have also been reported from Ranchi (Jharkhand), Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and Malappuram (Kerala).