WHO and CDC: Measles a threat to millions of children as vaccinations decline

A joint publication by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to a concern over measles vaccinations.

The agencies said measles vaccination coverage has steadily declined since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose: 25 million children missed their first dose and an additional 14.7 million children missed their second dose.

"We saw from the pandemic that sometimes kids weren't able to come in for their checkup visit," said Dr. Rachel Dawkins with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. "And we also have seen a lot of parents being concerned about giving vaccines."

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Measles is highly contagious, and the CDC and WHO said it’s currently a threat everywhere. Since 2016, 10 countries that had previously eliminated measles experienced outbreaks and reestablished transmission.

"Measles is super contagious. And so that's why it's great that we are able to vaccinate children against measles across the world," Dawkins said. "There are definitely large pockets, especially in some of our poorer countries, that children aren't able to get vaccinated. But even here in the US, there's areas where lots of kids aren't vaccinated."

Those are the areas most at risk of an outbreak. The agencies said they’re working on a global immunization strategy to detect outbreaks quickly, respond with urgency, and immunize all children who are not yet protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.