Nigeria still tops the chart of number of children not vaccinated against measles, although there has been a substantial decline in global measles death.
A new report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that 20.8 million children worldwide are still missing their first measles vaccine dose and more than half of these unvaccinated children live in six countries.
In a joint statement sponsored by CDC/GAVI/UNICEF and WHO on the report, they noted that in spite of the substantial decline of global measles death, a lot still needs to be done.
Nigeria tops the list of countries with unvaccinated children from measles with 3.3 million children, followed by India – 2.9 million, Pakistan – 2.0 million, Indonesia – 1.2 million, Ethiopia – 0.9 million and Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, with 0.7 million.
Since measles is a high contagious viral disease, large outbreaks continue to occur in these countries, especially in Nigeria as the country records suspected measles cases and deaths from the disease.
Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said a surveillance data showed that measles incidence among children under five years increased in northern Nigeria.
A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF survey earlier revealed that measles among children under the age of five increased more than two-fold in northern Nigeria, between 2014 and 2016.
To curtail the spread of the disease and prevent death of children under five, the Federal Government has released N3.5 billion for vaccination programme and a nationwide measles campaign has been rolled out for the 2017/2018 measles immunisation calendar.
The measles campaign was billed to have started on October 26, 2017 in the 19 northern states, but Shuaib said plans are to start the measles vaccination ahead of the 2017/2018 dry season, the period normally associated with the spread of the disease.
The vaccination in the North West is set to hold between October 26 and 31. For the North East, it will take place between November 30 and December 7 while the North Central and the Federal Capital Territory vaccination will take place from February 1 to 13, 2018.
The next phase of the exercise will take place in 17 southern states from March 8 to 20, 2018.
Measles outbreaks in the affected countries and other countries in Europe and North America put children at risk of severe health complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, encephalitis, blindness and death.
According to the statement, since 2000, an estimate of 5.5 billion doses of measles containing vaccines have been provided for children through routine immunisation services and mass vaccination campaigns, saving an estimated 20.4 million lives.
According to leading health organisations, there was a decline in global death from the disease in 2016 as an estimated 90,000 people died from measles. This is 84 per cent drop from more than 550,000 deaths in 2000.
Director of WHO’s Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals, Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, said measles elimination will only be reached if measles vaccines reach every child, everywhere.
“We have seen a substantial drop in measles deaths for more than two decades, but now, we must strive to reach zero measles cases,” she said.
According to the health agencies, the world is still far from reaching regional measles elimination goals.