‘Alarming rise’ of measles outbreaks in Europe, WHO warns


The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning for urgent measures amid an “alarming rise” in measles outbreaks in Europe last year.

The WHO European Region recorded more than 30,000 measles cases between January and October 2023, marking a 30-fold rise compared to the same period in 2022. According to the Organization, this number is expected to rise even higher if measures aren’t urgently taken.

Missed vaccinations = recipe for measles outbreaks

In 2016 and 2017, the United Kingdom declared that measles were eliminated – meaning transmission had stopped. However, cases began resurfacing in 2018.

On January 19, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) declared “a national incident” due to a measles outbreak.

According to the agency, the cause of the outbreak lies in low vaccination uptake.

“Vaccination is the only way to protect children from this potentially dangerous disease. Urgent vaccination efforts are needed to halt transmission and prevent further spread,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

The latest data from WHO also confirms that the new outbreaks are directly correlated to declining immunization rates, which fell from 96% in 2019 to 93% in 2022 for the first dose, and from 92% to 91% for the second dose.

“In all, over 1.8 million infants in the Region missed their measles vaccination between 2020 and 2022,” per the WHO report.

Boosting routine vaccination can boost public health

The early symptoms of measles are similar to those of the common cold or flu. However, it’s important to note that the disease can lead to severe complications and cause pneumonia, meningitis, blindness, seizures – and even death.

WHO explains that the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases can be stopped if at least 95% of children get their regular shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children get two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, “starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.”

Routine immunization helps save 10.5 million lives annually in the United States alone, but increased vaccine hesitancy has halted progress globally.

As Bio.News previously reported, one-third of parents are opposed to mandatory vaccines against measles and other illnesses, according to a KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey.

The majority of the public opinion still sways in favor of vaccines, KFF noted. In fact, 85% of parents trust that childhood vaccines like MMR are beneficial and safe.

The WHO emphasized in December 2021, cited by Bio.News, that unless major catch-up efforts are put in place, “the decline in vaccination coverage seen in 2020 raises serious questions about the achievability” of the Immunization Agenda 2030, which envisages that “an estimated 51 million future deaths in total will be averted by vaccination between 2021 and 2030 if coverage targets are met.”

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