The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly illness that spreads through respiratory droplets, could once again become a global threat after millions of children failed to get their measles vaccine during the pandemic. According to the CDC, 22.3 million infants around the world missed out on their first dose of the measles vaccine in 2020, leaving them susceptible to measles and increasing the potential for an outbreak.
Since 2000, measles vaccination has prevented an estimated 31.7 million deaths around the world, according to the CDC. But recent waning vaccination rates could weaken global efforts to eradicate the disease. “Increased population susceptibility and suboptimal measles surveillance portend an immediate elevated risk for measles transmission and outbreaks, threatening the already fragile progress toward regional elimination goals,” the CDC wrote in a recent progress report regarding efforts to eliminate measles worldwide.
Despite more countries offering measles immunization in 2020 compared to 2000, the number of children who went unvaccinated still climbed, likely due to the global coronavirus pandemic’s impact on health-care-seeking behavior. According to the CDC, the number of infants reported to have missed their measles vaccine in 2020 was 3 million more than the number reported in 2019. That’s the largest increase seen in nearly two decades, according to USA Today.
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