- UNICEF has said that 21.1 million children are missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine a year on average
- The organisation said that two doses of the measles vaccine were essential to protect children from the disease
- According to UNICEF, the worldwide coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are even more alarming
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 or 21.1 million children a year on average.
UNICEF’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, in commemoration of the World Immunisation Week marked annually between April 24 and 30, said the widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today.
“The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago; the measles virus will always find unvaccinated children.
“If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike," Fore said.
Fore said that two doses of the measles vaccine were essential to protect children from the disease.
She said, however, due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases, fear or scepticism about vaccines, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85% in 2017.
According to her, this figure has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth.
“Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent; the World Health Organisation recommends a threshold of 95% immunisation coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity’.
“In high income countries, while coverage with the first dose is 94 per cent, coverage for the second dose drops to 91%, according to the latest data," she said.
She said the United States tops the list of high-income countries with the most children not receiving the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million.
“It is followed by France and the United Kingdom, with over 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated infants, respectively, during the same period. In low- and middle-income countries, the situation is critical.
“In 2017, for example, Nigeria had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose, at nearly four million. It was followed by India (2.9 million), Pakistan and Indonesia (1.2 million each), and Ethiopia (1.1 million)," Fore notd.
She added that worldwide coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are even more alarming.
“Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, nine have not introduced the second dose.
“Twenty countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not introduced the necessary second dose in the national vaccination schedule, putting over 17 million infants a year at higher risk of measles during their childhood," Fore said.
She said that UNICEF in partnership with the Measles and Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was helping to address this measles crisis by negotiating vaccine prices; the cost of the measles vaccine is now at an all-time low.
She said also that the partnership would help countries identify underserved areas and unreached children; procure vaccines and other immunisation supplies.
According to her, UNICEF also supporting supplementary vaccination campaigns to address gaps in routine immunization coverage.
The organisation is also working with relevant countries to introduce the second dose of the measles vaccine in the national immunisation schedule; Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria are on track to do so in 2019.
“Finally, we are introducing innovations like the use of solar power and mobile technologies to maintain vaccines at the right temperature.
“Measles is far too contagious; it is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone," Fore said.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that the number of birth registration in Nigeria has increased by 29 million.
PAY ATTENTION: Get the Latest Nigerian News Anywhere 24/7. Spend less on the Internet!
An evaluation report of a birth registration programme implemented by the National Population Commission (NPoPC), with support from UNICEF which was launched on Monday, April 15, said registration of children between the ages of zero and 17 years in Nigeria increased by about 29 million.
According to the report, the programme increased the registration of birth for children under age one by more than 100 percent the number of children registered from three million in 2012 to 11 million in 2016.
Man warns other Nigerian men to desist from giving their wives 'Amala' everyday - on Legit.ng TV