117M+ children may have missed out on measles vaccine amid pandemic

More than 117 million children in 37 countries may miss out on receiving measles vaccines as COVID-19 spreads, with measles immunization campaigns delayed in 24 countries, according to the Measles and Rubella Initiative.

Measles vaccination campaigns are expected to be postponed in an additional 13 countries. 

The M&RI emphasized the need to address both the fight against COVID-19 and protect essential immunization services. 

The World Health Organization recently issued guidelines recommending governments temporarily pause preventive immunization campaigns where there aren't active outbreaks of a vaccine-preventable disease. The recommendations also ask that governments only delay vaccination campaigns in areas with unacceptably high COVID-19 risk. The M&RI is urging countries to continue routine immunization services if possible.

If vaccination efforts are postponed, the M&RI urges leaders to track unvaccinated children so they can be given a vaccine as soon as it becomes possible. Despite having an effective vaccine for more than 50 years, measles cases surged over recent years and killed more than 140,000 people in 2018, most of whom were children or infants. 

"We must invest in health workers and ensure they are protected from infection. … They are the first line of defense against global epidemics," the M&RI concluded. "Finally, we call on leaders to implement effective communication strategies to engage communities, ensure strong supply and demand for vaccination, and help assure a healthy life for every child." 

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