The need to intensify advocacy for the funding of public health diseases has risen again, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with UNICEF and other health organisations have named Nigeria, as the nation with the highest number of unvaccinated children with the measles vaccine.
The coalition of health organisations highlighted through a joint press release sent from Geneva/New York/Atlanta, the names of countries having more than half of their children population still missing their first measles vaccine dose, which amount to a total 20.8 million children.
The nations are: Nigeria (3.3 million), India (2.9 million), Pakistan (2.0 million), Indonesia (1.2 million), Ethiopia (0.9 million), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (0.7 million). Since measles is a highly contagious viral disease, large outbreaks continue to occur in these and other countries in Europe and North America, putting children at risk of severe health complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, encephalitis, blindness, and death.
The statement decried the situation, noting that the world is still far from reaching regional measles elimination goals. Coverage with the first of two required doses of measles vaccine has stalled at approximately 85% since 2009, far short of the 95% coverage needed to stop measles infections, and coverage with the second dose, despite recent increases, was only 64% in 2016.
Although the report initially stated that there was a remarkable drop in measles outbreak globally in 2016, as an estimated 90 000 people died from measles, which accounted for an 84% drop from more than 550 000 deaths in 2000, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the world’s largest supporters of measles immunization programmes, Dr Seth Berkley, remarked on the essence of intensifying efforts to combat the viral infection.
“However we cannot afford to be complacent. Too many children are still missing out on lifesaving vaccines. To reach these children and set ourselves on a realistic road to measles elimination we need to dramatically improve routine immunization backed by strong health systems”, she said.
According to Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals: “We have seen a substantial drop in measles deaths for more than two decades, but now we must strive to reach zero measles cases, Measles elimination will only be reached if measles vaccines reach every child, everywhere.”