Measles Outbreaks May Dominate 2022
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned the global COVID-19 pandemic created both good news as well as ominous measles forecasts.
Published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in November 2021, the latest immunization, illness, and surveillance trends indicate measles deaths decreased 94% since early 2020.
However, more than twenty-two million infants missed their first dose of the measles vaccine in 2020, about 10% more than in 2019.
Alongside the measles vaccination decrease, twenty-three countries postponed vaccination campaigns, positioning more than 93 million people at risk of this infectious disease.
These cancellations increase the risk of bigger measles outbreaks worldwide, including in the United States.
As of October 2021, the countries of Nigeria (6,595), Pakistan (6,395), Somalia (2,949), and India (2,915) have reported the most measles cases.
Although measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, almost 1,300 cases were reported in 31 states in 2019— the most significant number since 1992.
These measles outbreaks were linked to travel-related cases that reached at-risk, under-vaccinated populations.
Because of travel limitations and enhanced health behaviors, only 49 measles cases have been reported by five jurisdictions so far in 2021. Most of the twenty-two cases in Northern Virginia were also related to under-vaccinated travelers.
According to the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI), a partnership among the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, CDC, UNICEF, and WHO, measles outbreaks can be expected in 2022.
“Even before the (COVID-19) pandemic, we were seeing how even small pockets of low measles immunization coverage could fuel unprecedented outbreaks,” said Ephrem Tekle Lemango, UNICEF Associate Director for Immunization.
“While we have not seen an increase in cases yet, measles is simply too contagious.”
“If we do not act, gaps will become outbreaks, and many children will be exposed to a preventable but potentially deadly disease,” he added.
The Measles Outbreaks Strategic Response Plan 2021–2023 recommends annual risk assessments to strengthen preparedness and response, investigation of every outbreak, rapid implementation of effective interventions to stop transmission, and root cause analysis to close immunity gaps and prevent future episodes through tailored approaches.
Measles outbreaks in 2022 could be viewed as opportunities to identify weaknesses across the immunization system and develop tailored strategies to close immunity gaps, says these organizations.
‘Together, these actions will bolster measles elimination efforts while strengthening immunization systems,’ concluded the CDC and WHO statements.
As an example, the African country of Cameroon confirmed that in early December 2021, it began a measles vaccination drive on its northern border with Nigeria after several dozen children were found with the virus.
Cameroon reported that 79 of its 190 district hospitals were affected by measles epidemics in 2020, with about 1,500 confirmed measles infections. And the country's Public Health Ministry says 74% of the confirmed measles cases were in people who were not vaccinated.
In the U.S., the M-M-R vaccine is most often available at clinics, community centers, and local pharmacies. And this safe and protective vaccine is suggested before visiting various countries.
Note: As of December 8, 2021, the U.S. government does not require proof of measles immunization prior to visiting the U.S.
PrecisionVaccinations publishes fact-check, research-based vaccine news.
- CDC: Progress Toward Regional Measles Elimination Worldwide
- CDC: Measles cases in 2021
- WHO: Measles outbreaks strategic response plan: 2021–2023: measles outbreak prevention, preparedness, response and recovery
- Measles and Rubella Strategic Framework 2021-2030
- Under-Vaccinated Children At-Risk During Measles Outbreaks
- M-M-R II Vaccine