Measles outbreak in WHO European Region: 1.2 million children urgently needed to be vaccinated

Вспышка кори в Европейском регионе ВОЗ: необходимо срочно вакцинировать 1,2 млн детей

A timely measles vaccine can protect a child from a dangerous disease. Measles outbreak in WHO European Region: 1.2 million children urgently needed to be vaccinated Health

According to the European Office of the World Health Organization, more than 2.5 million children were vaccinated in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Romania and Tajikistan in 2023, which helped curb the spread of measles in these countries. WHO also calls on other countries in the region to increase the scale of measles vaccination, especially among vulnerable sections of the population.

As we have previously reported, measles cases have risen sharply in the organization’s European Region in 2023, putting millions of people at risk.

Last year, more than 58 thousand people in 41 of 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia have been infected with measles, leading to thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths, WHO experts report.

Catch up

The latest data for 2023 shows a rapid increase in measles incidence compared to the previous three years. All residents of the region who have not been vaccinated against this disease are at risk. Consistent work is needed to prevent a further increase in the incidence of measles in 2024, experts from the organization say.

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Nearly half of measles cases were reported among children under five years of age, highlighting the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health systems, including immunization services. The point is that many children missed scheduled vaccinations against measles and other diseases.

Health systems in the European Region have to catch up and urgently vaccinate 1.2 million children, WHO regional director Hans Kluge said. At the same time, it is necessary to continue routine immunization, Kluge added.

Vaccination efforts

Given the increasing incidence of measles worldwide, the risk of importation of infection from abroad is almost inevitable , according to the WHO. All Member States facing this challenge have already strengthened surveillance and immunization efforts.

In particular, in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Romania and Tajikistan, more than 2.5 million children were vaccinated in 2023, helping to curb the spread of measles in these countries.

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“Every death from measles is a tragedy that could have been avoided, since there is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent this disease” , said Dr. Kluge.

Measles elimination

As of 2022, measles elimination has been confirmed in 33 of 53 Member States of the European Region. However, to maintain this status, countries must stop infection after importation of the virus within 12 months of the first case being reported.

By adopting the European Immunization Agenda 2030, countries committed to vaccinate more than 95 percent of people across all population groups with two doses of measles vaccine. States must also ensure high-quality surveillance and rapid response to measles outbreaks.

WHO supports countries in eliminating inequalities between population groups in immunization. The organization also works with states in their efforts to combat the spread of false and misleading information about vaccines.

Vulnerable Groups

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world, spread by an infected person through breathing, coughing or sneezing. The virus remains infectious in the air or on surfaces for two hours.

Anyone who is not immune to the infection can become infected with measles. The most noticeable symptom of the disease is a rash, and complications can include blindness, encephalitis, ear infections, pneumonia, and severe diarrhea and associated dehydration.

Unvaccinated young children and pregnant women are at greatest risk of developing severe complications. Measles also weakens the immune system and can cause the body to lose its defenses against other common infections, leaving children extremely vulnerable to other illnesses.


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