England’s Under-Vaccinated Children Could Create the Next Measles Outbreak
With more than 10% of young children in England un-vaccinated or only partially vaccinated with a measles vaccine, U.K. health leaders are concerned an outbreak may occur in schools soon.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there has been a significant drop in the number of U.K parents and carers getting their children vaccinated against the highly contagious measles virus.
The UK Health Security Agency confirmed on February 1, 2022, these children under the age of five need measles virus protection by taking up two doses of a Measles-Mumps-Rubells (MMR) vaccine at the right time.
Coverage of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in 2-year-olds has dropped below 90%.
And the coverage for the second MMR doses in 5-year-olds in England is currently 85.5%, well below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of 95% needed to achieve and sustain measles elimination.
Measles is highly contagious, so a slight decrease in MMR uptake can increase cases.
Moreover, as the U.K reopens to international travel, it is more likely that measles will be brought in from countries with higher disease levels.
Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Each year, an estimated 142,000 people die from measles.
As of late 2021, the U.S. CDC reported the top ten countries battling measles outbreaks. This unfortunate list is led by Nigeria (4,533), India (3,791), and Somalia (3,711).
In the U.S., the CDC reported as of January 3, 2022, five jurisdictions had a total of 49 measles cases in 2021.
This data appears positive compared with 2019 when 1,282 individual measles cases were confirmed in 31 states. That was the most significant number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 1992.
The peer-reviewed journal The Lancet published a summary of January 27, 2022, stating, ‘despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, measles is still endemic in many countries and causes considerable morbidity and mortality, especially among children in resource-poor settings.’
‘The low case numbers reported in 2020, after a worldwide resurgence of measles between 2017 and 2019, have to be interpreted cautiously, owing to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on disease surveillance.’
‘Disrupted vaccination activities during the pandemic increase the potential for another resurgence of measles in the near future, and effective, timely catch-up vaccination campaigns, strong commitment and leadership, and sufficient resources will be required to mitigate this threat.’
Measles is a potentially fatal, but vaccine-preventable disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms include fever, maculopapular rash, and at least one other symptom, cough, coryza, or conjunctivitis, although vaccinated individuals can have milder or even no symptoms.
Laboratory diagnosis relies largely on the detection of specific IgM antibodies in serum, dried blood spots, or oral fluid, or the detection of viral RNA in the throat or nasopharyngeal swabs, urine, or oral fluid.
Complications can affect many organs and often include otitis media, laryngotracheobronchitis, pneumonia, stomatitis, and diarrhea. Neurological complications are uncommon but serious and can occur during or soon after the acute disease or months or even years later.
There is no specific antiviral therapy for the treatment of measles, and disease control largely depends on vaccine prevention.
According to the CDC, the U.S. measles vaccination program started in 1963.
Percent of children partially vaccinated by age 24 months in the U.S. reached about 90% in 2020.
In 2022, there are two U.S. FDA Approved measles vaccines: Merck’s M-M-R-II, for use in people ages 12 months and older; and Proquad, with an integrated Varicella Virus Vaccine, which is Approved for children ages 1 through 12 years.
Proquad is an FDA-approved vaccine for the prevention of chickenpox.
Measles vaccines Approved outside the U.S. included Priorix and Tresivac.
For additional measles vaccine information, please visit this webpage.
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