Based on a 300 percent increase in measles cases in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period last year, two UN agency heads said Monday that we are now "in the middle of a global measles crisis."
"Cases have increased around the world, including in places where measles had previously been eliminated, such as the United States," said Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization Organization (WHO).
Measles can be prevented almost completely by taking two doses of a safe and effective vaccine, even though they are highly contagious. The heads of the UN agency sketched a "disturbing photo" of the infection rate and said that "by the time you finish reading, we estimate that at least 40 people – most of them children – will be infected by this soon moving life. "threatening illness".
A clear and dangerous trend
After two years of consecutive increases, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine are among the current outbreaks. It is also spreading rapidly between clusters of people who oppose vaccination in countries with high overall vaccination rates, including the United States, Israel, Thailand and Tunisia.
"We are not only worried because measles can be so serious, it still causes more than 100,000 deaths a year, but also because it is extremely contagious," said the agency's directors.
Referring to measles such as "the canary in the coal mine of vaccine-preventable diseases," the heads of UNICEF and WHO explained that "millions of people are still missing life-leaking vaccines, making them and their communities vulnerable to diseases and deadly outbreaks" .
Living in countries where health systems are challenged by poverty and conflict, many have no access to effective vaccines. But "in several high and medium income countries", UN office heads complained that "there are parents who are slowing down or refusing to vaccinate their children because they are not sure about the need for vaccines or that vaccines are safe".
In addition, the UN agencies have revealed that uncertainty is often fueled by confusing, contradictory online information, which is spreading rapidly, with harmful content broadcast on digital channels; amplified by algorithms that reward controversy and clicks; and exploited by anti-vaccine activists to sow
Moreover, according to the agencies, scientists and advocates for health have even been harassed by sharing information, while unproven so-called vaccine alternatives are being marketed for profit.
& # 39; Collective & # 39; answer needed
"It is a collective responsibility to support parents and to create a more positive environment for vaccination, online and offline," said UNICEF and WHO heads.
Both agencies welcomed initial steps from digital companies, including Facebook and Amazon, to quarantine myths about vaccination safety, but say "it will cost a lot more … to ensure that all children receive their vaccines at the right time".
To reverse the trend, they indicated that everyone should advocate for vaccines, including by promoting scientific literacy about health and vaccines.
"It means that governments have to invest in primary care and immunization, and ensure that these services are affordable, accessible and truly responsive to the needs of parents, especially those in the poorest, most disadvantaged communities," the two emphasized.
In turn, WHO and UNICEF are working with other partners, such as the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership known as Gavi, to ensure that vaccines reach more people in more countries than ever before.
"It requires long-term efforts, political commitment and continuous investment, access to vaccines, quality of service and trust, to ensure that we are and remain protected together," said the head of the agency.