Low measles immunisation in Pacific, WHO warns

Photo: WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it’s working with local and international consultants to promote Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccines in the Pacific.

Measles, mumps and rubella vaccination coverage has steadily declined since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific.

According to a WHO and U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention report, measles is now an imminent threat worldwide and nearly 40 million children are dangerously susceptible.

The WHO’s Pacific technical support immunisation officer, Dr Shafiqul Hossain, said that COVID-19 measures have slowed the healthcare workforce across the region.

“Human resources are usually diverted for the COVID-19 response since our immunisation staff are also very busy, conducting the COVID-19 vaccination response. I think some of the countries closed clinics some days to reduce clinical hours.”

He said they have identified the poor vaccination performing countries and have boosted their immunisation programme in a number of ways.

“Low performing countries they are basically in the catch-up vaccination, in particular areas that are of low coverage inside the country or even nation-wide catch-up vaccination. We are also making sure that we have including local consultants, international consultants so that they can help the government to conduct these activities.”

In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose.

This decline is a significant setback in global progress towards achieving and maintaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection.

In 2021, there were an estimated nine million cases and 128,000 deaths from measles worldwide.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses but is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. Coverage of 95 percent or greater of two doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed to create herd immunity in order to protect communities and achieve and maintain measles elimination.