WHO cautions of major measles flare-ups as African countries delay jabs

The World Health Organization warned of a severe measles outbreak in several African countries that delayed their vaccination campaigns last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to W.H.O., 15 countries delayed their campaigns over the past year, and while 7 of them went on to complete them, 8 are yet to do so. The W.H.O. said that initial statistics shows around 16.6 million children in Africa had not received the planned extra doses of measles vaccine between January 2020 and April 2021. 

As a result, measles outbreaks have been reported in eight countries, affecting thousands of people during this period. 

“The outbreaks were largely due to low routine immunization or delayed vaccination campaigns. In addition, the quality of measles surveillance in Africa fell to its lowest level in seven years by 2020, with only 11 countries reaching their target,” W.H.O.said in a statement Thursday.

A vaccination rate of at least 95 percent in the general population is required to prevent outbreaks. 

Approximately nine million children in the African region lose life-saving vaccines every year, and one in five children remains exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases, according W.H.O.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of W.H.O. for Africa said the recent outbreaks of measles and other diseases, such as yellow Fever, cholera and meningitis have all been signs of “worrying gaps” in vaccination coverage and surveillance across the continent. 

“While we are fighting COVID-19, we cannot expose anyone to dangerous preventable diseases. I urge all countries to double up on essential health services, including life-saving vaccination campaigns,” said Moeti. 

Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills more than 500,000 children under the age of 12 in Africa a year.