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WHO: Measles cases hit 23-year high last year

Measles cases in the world reached their highest level for more than 20 years. UN News reports with reference to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2019, the number of cases of the infection reached almost 870,000 — this is the highest figure since 1996. And the number of deaths from the disease has grown by 50 percent in just three years.

Countries that have recently suffered large measles outbreaks include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Central African Republic (CAR), Georgia, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Samoa, Tonga, and Ukraine.

Experts note that the outbreak of measles in Ukraine occurred as a result of public and medical mistrust of vaccines, as well as due to problems with their supply and storage.

«The reason for the new outbreaks of measles, which have occurred in all regions of the world, were problems with vaccination, including significant delays in immunization campaigns associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and in some cases — refusal of vaccination by the population,» UN News reports.

As WHO reports, measles is entirely preventable, but success requires 95 per cent of children to be vaccinated on time with two doses of measles-containing vaccines (MCV1 and MCV2). MCV1 coverage has been stagnant globally for more than a decade at between 84 and 85 per cent, while MCV2 coverage has been steadily increasing but is still only at 71 percent.

Earlier UNICEF and WHO issued a joint call to action to avert major measles and polio epidemics, calling for an additional $255 million over the next three years to address dangerous measles immunity gaps in the 45 countries at the highest risk of an imminent outbreak.