CDC, WHO report alarming rise in measles cases, deaths

About 22 million children who were eligible for measles vaccinations in 2022 did not receive them, according to a joint report from the CDC and the World Health Organization, published Nov. 17. Not only has it left a large population of children susceptible to infection and outbreaks — risk of death is also rising.

Both measles cases and deaths largely occur among children, according to the WHO. The agency published a report Nov. 16 finding that globally in 2022, measles cases rose by 18% and deaths increased by 43% just from one year prior. The findings are "staggering," according to John Vertefeuille, PhD, director of CDC's global immunization division, but "not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we've seen in the past few years," he added. 

Lower income countries typically see higher rates of measles infections and deaths due to lower vaccination rates. But since COVID-19, children in the U.S. have lagged behind in staying up to date on basic vaccinations as well. 

"The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries following the pandemic is an alarm bell for action," said Kate O'Brien, MD, the WHO's director for immunization, vaccine and biologicals. "Measles is called the inequity virus for good reason. It is the disease that will find and attack those who aren't protected."

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