WHO reports decrease in measles deaths

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a significant decline in measles deaths.

This indicates that continued vaccination campaigns, especially in developing nations, are bearing fruit.

The report shows that in 2016, an estimated 90,000 people died from measles worldwide, 84 per cent drop from the more than 550,000 deaths in 2000.

The figure marks the first time the annual death toll has fallen below 100,000 since WHO began taking records.

“Saving an average of 1.3 million lives per year through measles vaccine is an incredible achievement and makes a world free of measles seem possible, even probable in our lifetime,” Dr Robert Linkins of the Measles and Rubella Initiative said.

Measles is a viral infection and a very contagious disease that spreads through contact with infected mucus and saliva.

WHO, through continued vaccination, has sought to eliminate the disease, just as it has managed to achieve this target for polio in some countries.

Since 2000, an estimated 5.5 billion doses of measles-containing vaccines have been provided to children, saving an estimated 20.4 million lives.

“We have seen a substantial drop in measles deaths for more than two decades, but now we must strive to reach zero measles cases,” Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals, said.

In Kenya, babies are often vaccinated for measles in two doses; one at nine months and the next at four years.

But the programme has recently faced problems occasioned by the almost five-month .


This means the country is staring at a crisis as thousands of children are going without immunisation.

The national immunisation coverage has dropped from 85 to 68 per cent, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

The data also indicates that the number of children without compulsory vaccination of any sort rose from 157,584 to 265,523 between January and July, exposing children to the risk of polio, pneumonia, TB, tetanus, measles, BCG and influenza.

But the government has since launched a campaign targeting 300,000 children below five years who might have missed out on six essential vaccines.

Despite the gains, the WHO report says the world is still far from reaching regional measles elimination goals as 20.8 million children are still missing their first vaccine dose.

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