Katsina, Borno and Yobe states have taken the lead in Nigeria as cases of measles surge by 700 percent in Africa for the first three months of 2019 compared to 2018.
Every state in Nigeria has recorded a case of measles in 2019, with a total of 2,113 suspected cases reported from 34 states in the last week of March.
Meanwhile, 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, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, yesterday.
Widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said countries in Africa have experienced a resurgence of measles, including outbreaks reported in at least nine countries (Chad, Cameroon, DR Congo, Liberia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda) in the last 12 months.
Madagascar, in particular, has had a large measles outbreak affecting more than 122,000 cases in the months between October 2018 and April 2019.
A highly contagious disease that accounts for 13 percent of all vaccine-preventable deaths in children younger than five years in Africa, measles infects nine in ten people who are not vaccinated.
As of 2017, only 16 countries in the African Region had achieved 90 per cent or more immunisation coverage of the first dose of measles vaccine (MCV1), according to the WHO UNICEF coverage estimates. Across the region, MCV1 coverage has stagnated, at 70-73 per cent since 2009.
At the launch of the ninth African Vaccination Week, yesterday, in São Tomé and Príncipe, immunization partners stressed the importance of countries remaining vigilant in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year’s theme is “Protected Together: Vaccines Work!” which emphasises the power of vaccines in saving lives and keeping everyone healthy, from infants to elders.
African Vaccination Week (April 22-28) also celebrates the vaccination heroes who help expand the coverage of immunisation services across the African region – from parents and community leaders to health workers and innovators. “We need to work together to improve immunisation delivery so that all children are protected from preventable diseases.
Recent disease outbreaks on the continent remind us of the urgency of this goal,” Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa, said.
“Outbreaks of measles in Madagascar and Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo underscore the need for increased investments in immunization as a fundamental part of strengthening primary health care systems,” she also stressed.