Measles, Forgotten, But Not Gone

International measles outbreaks continue during 2020
young child getting vaccine
(Vax Before Travel)

As the COVID-19 disease pandemic continues to spread globally, over 117 million children may miss out on receiving the life-saving measles vaccine, announced the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI).

As of April 14, 2020, measles immunization campaigns in 24 countries have already been delayed and more may soon be postponed.

Furthermore, about 155 countries have already reported 11,509 laboratory-confirmed measles cases during 2020.

Despite having access to safe and effective vaccines for over 50 years, measles cases claimed more than 140,000 lives in 2018, mostly of children, all of which were preventable. 

Even in the USA, various states experienced significant measles outbreaks during 2019, directly related to the importation of the measles virus by international travelers.

“During this challenging period, the M&RI expresses solidarity with families, communities, governments, and emergency responders and join with our global immunization and health partners, in our collective focus and fight against the threat of COVID-19.”

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines endorsed by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization -- to help countries to sustain immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“The guidelines recommend that governments temporarily pause preventive immunization campaigns where there is no active outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.” 

The M&RI partners, which include the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation and WHO, strongly agree with these WHO recommendations.

Measles is considered among the most contagious viruses in the world. About 90 percent of people who have never been immunized against measles become ill 7-21 days after exposure. 

Infected people can infect those around them before they have symptoms and know they are infected.

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“The recommendations also ask governments to undertake a careful risk-benefit analysis when deciding whether to delay vaccination campaigns in response to outbreaks, with the possibility of postponement where risks of COVID-19 transmission are deemed unacceptably high.”

“If the difficult choice to pause vaccination is made due to the spread of COVID-19 however, this should not mean that children permanently miss out.”

“Urgent efforts must be taken now at local, national, regional and global levels to prepare to close the immunity gaps that the measles virus will exploit, by ensuring that vaccines are available and that they reach children and vulnerable populations, as quickly as possible, to keep them safe.”

“Against this already dangerous backdrop, campaigns expected to take place later in 2020 in an additional 13 countries may not be implemented.”

“Finally, we call on countries and local leaders to implement effective communication strategies to engage communities, ensure supply and demand for vaccination remains strong, and help assure a healthy life for every child especially in this challenging time.”

The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) is a global partnership, founded by the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation and WHO, that is committed to achieving and maintaining a world without measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome.

To notify everyone of their ongoing measles risk, the CDC reissued a Global Travel Alert on January 3, 2020. This Alert has since been removed by the CDC.

The good news from the CDC is as of April 5, 2020, there have been only 12 confirmed cases in 7 jurisdictions this year.

All of the measles cases reported in 2020 were caused by measles wild-type D8 or B3.

The CDC says measles can be prevented with the MMR-II vaccine. Children have the option of getting the Proquad vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.

Vax-Before-Travel reports international measles outbreak news.