The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released a new report about the progress being made toward eliminating the measles virus. Things aren’t going well.
According to the report, measles cases increased 18% worldwide in 2022, with deaths from measles increasing a staggering 43% worldwide compared to the prior year. In 2022, the estimated number of measles cases was 9 million, and deaths from those cases totaled 136,000. Those deaths were mainly of children.
These numbers are all the more tragic because measles is a preventable disease if you’ve been vaccinated. Announcing the publication of the report, the director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division, John Vertefeuille, said, “The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years. Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”
Missing doses, with tragic results
According to the CDC, it only takes two doses of the measles vaccine to prevent children from acquiring the disease. The first dose is given when the child is aged 12 to 15 months, and the second dose is given when the child is 4-6 years old.
But in 2022, 11 million children who had already previously received their first dose, missed their second dose, leaving them vulnerable to the virus. A further 22 million missed their first dose.
In the United States, 1 of every 5 people who get measles needs to be hospitalized, says the CDC. One out of every 1,000 people will develop brain swelling, which could lead to them becoming brain damaged for life. And up to 3 out of every 1,000 people infected will die, even if they receive the best care possible.
As the Washington Post reported last year, increasing vaccine hesitancy is one of the causes of the increasing cases of measles, which is seeing a resurgence in the United States. The increasing vaccine hesitance is mainly attributed to the politicization of the Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic years.
For those wishing to learn more about the measles vaccine, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has a myths and fact sheet here.