Pakistan Among Top 10 Countries with Low Measles Vaccination Rates

Measles is a highly contagious disease that can cause serious complications and even death, especially among children. It can be prevented by two doses of a safe and effective vaccine, but millions of children around the world are still missing out on this lifesaving intervention.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the global measles situation worsened in 2022, with an 18% increase in cases and a 43% increase in deaths compared to the previous year. The report estimates that 9 million people contracted measles and 136,000 died from it in 2022, mostly children under five years of age.

The report also reveals that 33 million children did not receive a measles vaccine dose in 2022, of which 22 million missed the first dose and 11 million missed the second dose. The global coverage of the first dose was 83% and the second dose was 74%, far below the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks and protect communities.

Low-income countries, where the risk of death from measles is highest, had the lowest vaccination rates at only 66%. Pakistan was among the 10 countries that accounted for half of the children who missed their first dose, along with Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The report also highlights that 37 countries experienced large or disruptive measles outbreaks in 2022, compared to 22 countries in 2021. Most of these outbreaks occurred in the African region (28 countries), followed by the Eastern Mediterranean region (six countries), the South-East Asia region (two countries) and the European region (one country).

The report attributes the decline in measles vaccination and the increase in outbreaks to several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted immunization services and campaigns, the lack of political commitment and funding, the weak health systems and the misinformation and hesitancy among some communities.

The report urges countries and partners to take urgent actions to restore and sustain measles immunization, especially in the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach areas. It also calls for global solidarity and support to ensure that all children are protected from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

“The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years,” said John Vertefeuille, director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division.

“Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”

“The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries following the pandemic is an alarm bell for action. Measles is the disease that attacks those who aren’t protected,” said Kate O’Brien, WHO Director for Immunization, Vaccine and Biologicals.

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