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Health officials warn vaccination delays put 40 million kids at risk in growing measles threat

Posted at 3:24 PM, Nov 28, 2022

(WXYZ) — Measles vaccination rates declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now nearly 40 million children are susceptible to the disease. That’s according to a joint report from the World Health Organization and the CDC.

There have already been large outbreaks in 22 countries around the world. This is very disheartening to hear because the measles’ two-dose vaccination is 97% effective at preventing and protecting against this extremely contagious virus.

Now, this new report found that 25 million children missed their first dose and an additional 14.7 million children missed their second dose in 2021. That’s nearly 40 million kids in one year, which is a record high. And no surprise, many of these delays can be blamed on the pandemic.

In 18 countries, 61 million measles vaccine doses were either missed or postponed due to COVID-19-related delays in immunization campaigns. This is definitely a setback, in my opinion.

Last year, worldwide, there was an estimated 9 million measles cases. And 128,000 deaths. In order to create herd immunity and protect communities, we need at least 95% coverage. But so far, only 81% of children worldwide got their first measles-containing vaccine dose, and only 71% have got their second dose.

There’s been a recent outbreak in Columbus, Ohio. 32 cases have been reported since the start of November – and 13 children have been hospitalized. Of those 32 cases, 31 were unvaccinated, and one had an unknown vaccination status. So this really shows how well our vaccines work.

Now, once a person is infected, symptoms can include a high fever, dry cough, sore throat, inflamed eyes, and a red, blotchy rash. Unfortunately, measles can lead to other health problems like ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain.

Those most at risk are:

  • pregnant women – measles can cause premature birth and fetal death
  • also, people with weak immune systems - they can develop a type of pneumonia that sometimes leads to death
  • and babies under the age of one are also at high risk

That’s because the first vaccine dose is usually given between 12 and 15 months of age. The second dose is given later, typically between 4 and 6 years of age.

Now, I can’t stress how important it is for everyone to stay up on their vaccines. Especially with the millions of kids who are not vaccinated against measles. Because this increases the risk of further measles outbreaks in every region in the world, including here.