1 Dec 2022

WHO sounds alarm over low measles immunisation in Pacific

8:48 am on 1 December 2022

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it's working with local and international consultants to promote MMR vaccines in the Pacific.

Measles, mumps and rubella vaccination coverage has steadily declined since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Pacific.

According to a WHO and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, measles is now an imminent threat worldwide and nearly 40 million children are dangerously susceptible.

The WHO's Pacific technical support immunisation officer, Dr Shafiqul Hossain, said that Covid-19 measures has slowed the healthcare workforce across the region.

"Human resources are usually diverted for the Covid-19 response since our immunation staff are also very busy, conducting the Covid-19 vaccination response. I think some of the countries closed clinics some days to reduce clinical hours."

He said they have identified the poor vaccination performing countries and have boosted their immunisation programme in a number of ways.

"Low performing countries they are basically in the catch up vaccination, in particular areas that are of low coverage inside the country or even nation wide catch up vaccination. We are also making sure that we have including local consultants, international consultants so that they can help the government to conduct these activities."

In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose.

This decline is a significant setback in global progress towards achieving and maintaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection.

Nurse holding MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine vial in gloved hand with syringe. (Photo by SHERRY YATES YOUNG/SCIENCE PHOTO / SYO / Science Photo Library via AFP)

Photo: AFP / Science Photo Library

In 2021, there were an estimated nine million cases and 128,000 deaths from measles worldwide.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses but is almost entirely preventable through vaccination.

Coverage of 95 percent or greater of two doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed to create herd immunity in order to protect communities and achieve and maintain measles elimination.