An estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 or 21.1 million children a year on average says United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) .
UNICEF’s Executive Director, Ms Henrietta Fore made this known on Thursday in commemoration of the World Immunization Week marked annually between April 24 and 30. According to her, widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today. “The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago; the measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. “If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike, “ she said.
The director said that two doses of the measles vaccine were essential to protect children from the disease. She said, however, due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases, fear or skepticism about vaccines, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85 per cent in 2017.
According to her, this figure has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth. “Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent; the World Health Organisation recommends a threshold of 95 per cent immunization coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity’.
She said that UNICEF in partnership with the Measles and Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was helping to address this measles crisis by negotiating vaccine prices; the cost of the measles vaccine is now at an all-time low. She said also that the partnership would help countries identify underserved areas and unreached children; procure vaccines and other immunisation supplies. “
We are also supporting supplementary vaccination campaigns to address gaps in routine immunization coverage.
“Working with relevant countries to introduce the second dose of the measles vaccine in the national immunization schedule; Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria are on track to do so in 2019.
“Finally, we are introducing innovations like the use of solar power and mobile technologies to maintain vaccines at the right temperature. ”Measles is far too contagious; it is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone”.