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Measles Could Affect 2.9 Million Infants in India Due to Low Immunisation Levels: UNICEF

Among the high-income countries, US tops the list with the highest number of non-immunised infants. It is followed by France and UK.

Rakhi Bose | News18.com@theotherbose

Updated:May 3, 2019, 4:26 PM IST
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Almost 20 million children around the world missed out on receiving annual measles vaccines in the past eight years and the deficit may be causing fresh outbreaks in various parts of the world today.

Fresh data from UNICEF has revealed that stigma against vaccines, skepticism, lack of facilities or awareness is causing millions of children to go without measles vaccines, making them easy prey to fresh outbreaks measles and rubella outbreaks.

An estimated 110,000 cases of measles were recorded worldwide in just the first three months of 2019, an exponential increase from the statistic last year. The same number of children are estimated to have died across the globe of measles in 2017.

What is causing measles outbreaks?

Preventing measles requires a minimum of two vaccines. As per the World Health Organisation, it is essential for the population to achieve at least 95 percent immunization to the disease.

The numbers revealed by UNICEF are shocking. Among the high-income countries, the US tops the list with the highest number of non-immunised infants. It is followed by France and the UK.

"The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago. The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. Terming measles as a "dangerous but preventable disease," Fore said, "If we are serious about averting its spread, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike."

The highest cases of non-immunisation occurred in Africa, where 4 million children under the age of one were left unvaccinated in 2017.

In the past decade, the "anti-vaccination" movement, which originated in France about two the 18th century, has seen a revival of in the West with many organising rallies, protests and support groups to fight for the abolition of vaccines. Many in countries like US and UK believe vaccines to be anti-religious, or a corporate sham to eek out more money from unsuspecting patients.

India and Measles

As per the data, India is second in line as the country with most number of reported measles cases in 2017. An estimated 2.9 million infants under one year of age missed out on the first dose of anti-measles vaccine, makingthem potential victims of the disease. With a global increase of 300 percent in cases worldwide in 2019, India stood third with 7,246 cases in the first three months of 2019, preceded only by Madagascar (46,187) and Ukraine (25,319).

Authorities have beefed up response to the the increased number of measles cases that are being recorded. The health department of Gurugram recently said that it will increase surveillance of families and ensure vaccination, claiming non-vaccination w as the main cause for concern, Hindustan Times reported in April.

Increased cases of measles were also reported in Mumbai where officials claimed refusal to vaccinate was one of the main factors that contributed to the rise.

As per a report in News Minute, the anti-vaccination movement. already a major crowd-puller in Western countries has been growing in Southern India with several cases of diseases such as Monkey fever linked to patients violating mandated vaccines.

High prices of vaccines, lack of awareness about them and the non-availability of vaccines are some of the major causes of refusal to get vaccinated. UNICEF is working with UNICEF the Measles and Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine

Alliance, among others, to eradicate these problems. But government collusion and participation at state and health department levels is intrinsic to the successfully countering measles outbreaks.

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