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UNICEF blames anti-vaxxers for the 300% spike in global measles outbreaks

‘The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago,’ report says. Read More...

Worldwide measles cases reported in the first three months of 2019 have surged 300% from the same period last year, UNICEF reported Thursday, using its own figures and World Health Organization data.

The organization blamed “widening pockets of unvaccinated children” across the globe for giving the highly contagious yet preventable virus the opportunity to spread in several countries. That includes the U.S.

In fact, America tops the list of the top 10 high-income countries where children were not inoculated with the first of two measles vaccination doses over the past several years. In the U.S., the MMR vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella, although a measle vaccine can be administered separately.

Ranking of the top 10 high-income countries and the number of children in those countries not vaccinated with the first measles vaccine dose between 2010 and 2017:

  • United States: 2,593,000
  • France: 608,000
  • United Kingdom: 527,000
  • Argentina: 438,000
  • Italy: 435,000
  • Japan: 374,000
  • Canada: 287,000
  • Germany: 168,000
  • Australia: 138,000
  • Chile: 136,000

UNICEF added that an estimated 169 million children worldwide missed out on measles vaccines over the past eight years. That’s 21.1 million children a year. And an estimated 110,000 people (mostly children) worldwide died from measles in 2017, up 22% from the year before.

“The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago,” said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore in a statement. “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.”

This report came the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that confirmed measles cases in the U.S. are the highest they’ve ever been since the disease was declared eradicated in 2000. Twenty-two states have confirmed 659 measles cases, with most stemming from outbreaks in Washington state and New York state.

See: Measles cases in U.S. hit highest level in 25 years

The CDC also blamed the anti-vaxxer movement, explaining in a statement that: “A significant factor contributing to the outbreaks in New York is misinformation in the communities about the safety of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine. Some organizations are deliberately targeting these communities with inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines.”

See: Anti-vaxxer teen tells Congress why he vaccinated himself against his mom’s wishes

The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone over a year old, except for people who had the disease as children. Those who have had measles are immune.

While measles is not lethal in most healthy adults, a small fraction of those infected can suffer complications such as pneumonia and a dangerous swelling of the brain. It can also be dangerous to vulnerable populations such as infants and children with cancer, pregnant women or adults with weakened immune systems.

See: Measles reported at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters

“Measles is far too contagious,” added Fore. “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.”

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