Pakistan ranks among the top 10 low and middle-income countries where a significant number of children, approximately 22 million, missed their first measles vaccine dose last year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 18% increase in measles cases and a 43% rise in deaths in 2022 compared to the previous year. This surge resulted in around 9 million cases and 136,000 deaths, predominantly affecting children.
In 2022, measles outbreaks intensified globally, with 37 countries experiencing significant outbreaks, a substantial increase from 22 in 2021. Most of these outbreaks occurred in the WHO Region for Africa, alongside cases in the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and the European Region. John Vertefeuille from CDC’s Global Immunization Division emphasized the critical need for urgent, targeted efforts to prevent measles disease and deaths, highlighting the risk posed by measles cases in under-vaccinated communities worldwide.
Vaccine Coverage Gaps and Call for Action
The report also highlighted a concerning drop in measles vaccine coverage. Around 33 million children missed their measles vaccine in 2022, with nearly 22 million missing the first dose and 11 million missing the second. Global vaccine coverage rates of 83% for the first dose and 74% for the second dose fall short of the 95% coverage needed to prevent outbreaks. Low-income countries, at the highest risk of measles deaths, continue to have the lowest vaccination rates, with only 66% coverage.
Kate O’Brien from WHO called for urgent action to address the lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage, particularly in low-income countries. CDC and WHO urge countries to vaccinate all children against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. They call on global stakeholders to support countries vaccinating their most vulnerable populations.