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Europe: Measles cases highest in a decade as pockets refuse vaccination

8 Feb, 2019
, Source:

Europe had a record number of measles cases last year, in part due to a growing number of pockets where parents are refusing vaccination for their children, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

 
 
FILE PHOTO: Lauren Durbin, aged 10 months, is given an MMR injection by Sister Sian Owen at the Paediatric Outpatients department at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, south Wales April 6, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden/File Photo

At the same time, the WHO said, record numbers of children are getting the vaccine – offering hope that the rise in infections may not last.

“Progress has been uneven between and within countries, leaving increasing clusters of susceptible individuals unprotected, and resulting in a record number of people affected by the virus in 2018,” it said in a statement.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause hearing loss and brain disorders in children and, in severe cases, can kill.

Vaccination coverage needs to be around 95 percent to prevent the virus circulating in communities – so-called “herd immunity”.

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In many countries, anti-vaccine campaigners seek to dissuade parents from getting their children immunized, despite strong scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective.

In Italy, the co-ruling anti-establishment Five Star Movement has questioned the safety of some vaccines and loudly denounced efforts to make vaccinations mandatory.

In the WHO’s European region, which covers nearly 900 million people, some 82,600 in 47 countries contracted measles last year – the highest number this decade. Of those, 72 cases were fatal. Six of the 53 countries did not report.

In 34 of the countries, estimated coverage with a second dose of measles vaccine was below 95 percent.

“(Immunization) gaps at local level still offer an open door to the virus,” the WHO’s European director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said in a statement.

Professor Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology, said the figures were “extremely concerning”.

Heidi Larson, a specialist in vaccines and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the increase in cases was a “wake-up call on the importance of building confidence in vaccination”.

A report published by the European Commission last year and compiled by a team led by Larson found that measles immunization coverage has fallen in 12 EU countries since 2010, and that seven out of the 10 countries with the lowest vaccine confidence in the world are in Europe.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 8th, 2019 at 9:46 am and is filed under Latest News.

Literature Literature archive

Lee TH, McGlynn EA, Safran DG. 2019 JAMA 321(6):539–540. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19186
MJ Bayefsky, LOGostin 2018 JAMA Pediatr. online Dec 28, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4283
K I Hammanyero, S Bawa, F Braka, et al. 2018 BMC Public Health Vol 18 (Suppl 4) :1306 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6193-z

Videos Video archive

Key figures share their perspectives on a controversy that led to the suspension of Ebola vaccine clinical trials in Ghana.

Drs. Heidi Larson and Pauline Paterson of the Vaccine Confidence Project join episode 50 of the Public Health United podcast with Nina Martin, November 2017.

Drs. Larson and Paterson join a discussion on vaccine confidence at Hong Kong University.  September, 2015.

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