A recent survey conducted by Unicef has found that between 2010 and 2017, 527,000 – over half a million – children were not vaccinated in the UK with the first dose of the measles vaccine.
The number is part of a global figure of more than a staggering 20 million, and an average of 21.1 million children a year, and due to the lack of vaccinations, widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world in recent months.
The news comes just months after it was reported that European cases of measles have hit a ten-year high, and 32 cases were confirmed across Greater Manchester, causing concern across the UK.
The outbreaks have been devastating, as the UK was declared free of the disease for the first time by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2017, but the number of measles cases in Europe has reportedly tripled between 2017 and 2018 to 82,596.
According to the report, the ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was “laid years ago,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “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.”
In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide – up nearly 300% the same period last year. An estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, a 22% increase from the year before.
“Measles is far too contagious,” she continued, “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.”
Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease. 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% in 2017, a figure that has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth. Global coverage for the second dose however is much lower, at just 67%.