Measles Vaccination Gaps Persist in India: A Look at the WHO-CDC Report

In 2022, a startling revelation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that approximately 11 lakh children in India missed their first dose of the measles vaccine. This places India among the top ten nations globally with the highest measles vaccination gap, even in the aftermath of the pandemic.

India’s Measles Outbreak: A Troubling Scenario

The same report identifies India as one of the 37 countries grappling with measles outbreaks in 2022, recording a staggering 40,967 cases. Despite the government’s efforts in conducting special vaccination drives in response to the outbreak, gaps in measles vaccination coverage persist, painting a concerning picture for the nation.

Global Impact: Measles Cases Surge Amidst Pandemic

Globally, the immunization against measles hit its lowest levels since 2008 during the pandemic. This resulted in an 18% increase in measles cases and a staggering 43% increase in deaths in 2022.

The Significance of Measles Vaccination

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection, primarily affecting children. The symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, and distinctive red rashes. However, the complications can be severe, leading to death.

Globally, complications from measles, such as brain swelling, pneumonia, severe diarrhea, and dehydration, claim the lives of 1.3 lakh children annually. Vaccination has proven instrumental in reducing mortality rates by 82%, preventing an estimated 5.7 crore deaths between 2000 and 2022.

Special Vaccination Drives: Responding to the Outbreak

With most health resources focused on battling the COVID-19 pandemic, delays and disruptions in childhood vaccinations occurred, leading to increased measles cases. Five states—Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra—reported a surge in cases, with Maharashtra alone recording 13 measles-related deaths in 2022.

In response, the government initiated an outbreak response immunization drive, targeting 13 lakh children aged nine months to 15 years in affected states and neighboring regions between November 2022 and May 2023.

Government Initiatives: Aiming for 95% Vaccination Coverage

In the pursuit of measles and rubella elimination by 2023, India aims to achieve a 95% vaccination coverage with two doses. The government’s one-time vaccination campaign, launched in 2017, targeted children up to 15 years old or one-third of the country’s total population.

As of 2023, only West Bengal and Delhi remain to complete this campaign. West Bengal successfully vaccinated 2.2 crore children, while Delhi faced challenges, vaccinating only 11 lakh children up to the age of five years due to pending litigations.

Global Challenges: WHO-CDC Report Findings

According to the WHO-CDC report, despite increased vaccination coverage in 2022, 33 million children globally missed either both doses or the second dose of the measles vaccine. Low-income countries, with the highest risk of measles-related deaths, continue to struggle with vaccination rates at a concerning 66%, showing no recovery from the setbacks during the pandemic.



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