Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Progress towards reducing global measles deaths and measles elimination goals

WHO/C. McNab

Efforts in countries to increase access to measles vaccination has reduced measles deaths worldwide by 78% from an estimated 562 400 deaths in 2000 to 122 000 in 2012. The latest data also show that cases have declined 77% from 853 480 to 226 722 during this same time period.

These gains are a result of global routine immunization coverage holding steady at 84% and 145 countries having introduced a second dose of measles vaccine as part of the routine immunization schedule.

Additionally in 2012, 145 million children were vaccinated in Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIAs) against measles and more than 1 billion have been reached through SIAs since 2000 with the support of the Measles and Rubella Initiative.

However, measles continues to be a threat around the globe, with five of six WHO regions still experiencing large outbreaks and with the African, Eastern Mediterranean and European regions unlikely to meet their measles elimination targets. These same three regions also have the largest number of infants not receiving their first dose of measles vaccine in 2012 and bear 98% of the estimated global measles mortality burden.

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to humankind and an important cause of death and disability among children worldwide. Those unvaccinated against the disease are at risk of severe health complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, and encephalitis (a dangerous infection of the brain causing inflammation) and blindness. The disease can be fatal. The vast majority of measles deaths occur in developing countries and weak health infrastructures.

WHO recommends that every child receive two doses of measles vaccine to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks.

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Last updated: 6 February 2014

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