India witnessed about 51 per cent mortality reduction from measles between 2000 and 2015 but the country is still among the six nations accounting for half of infants who did not get vaccinated last year, according to a new report by leading health organisations.
Despite a 79 per cent worldwide decrease in measles deaths between 2000 and 2015, nearly 400 children still die from the disease every day, the report said.
In 2015, about 20 million infants missed their measles shots and an estimated 134,000 children died from the disease.
India, Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan account for half of the unvaccinated infants and 75 per cent of the measles deaths, it said.
The report added that India saw a 51 per cent reduction in mortality from 2000 to 2015.
Among the estimated 20.8 million infants who did not receive a first dose of the measles vaccine (MCV1) through routine immunization services in 2015, approximately 53 per cent were in six countries, including India (3.2 million), Nigeria (3 million), Pakistan (2 million), Indonesia (1.5 million), Ethiopia (0.7 million), and Congo (0.6 million).
“Making measles history is not mission impossible,” said Robin Nandy, UNICEF Immunization Chief.
“We have the tools and the knowledge to do it; what we lack is the political will to reach every single child, no matter how far. Without this commitment, children will continue to die from a disease that is easy and cheap to prevent.”
Mass measles vaccination campaigns and a global increase in routine measles vaccination coverage saved an estimated 20.3 million young lives between 2000 and 2015, according to UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It however added that progress has been uneven.
“It is not acceptable that millions of children miss their vaccines every year. We have a safe and highly effective vaccine to stop the spread of measles and save lives,” said Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.
A highly contagious viral disease that spreads through direct contact and through the air, measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children globally. It can be prevented with two doses of a safe and effective vaccine.
Measles outbreaks in numerous countries caused by gaps in routine immunization and in mass vaccination campaigns continue to be a serious challenge. In 2015, large outbreaks were reported in Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.
The outbreaks in Germany and Mongolia affected older persons, highlighting the need to vaccinate adolescents and young adults who have no protection against measles.
Measles also tends to flare up in countries in conflict or humanitarian emergencies due to the challenges of vaccinating every child.
Last year, outbreaks were reported in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, the report said.
The report shows that the 2015 WHO regional measles elimination goals were not met because not every child has been reached gaps exist.
“We need to close these gaps, ensure that commitments for adequate human and financial resources are kept and used well to reach every child, detect and respond to every case of measles, and prevent further spread,” it said.