Measles vaccination rates dropped throughout the pandemic and hit the lowest coverage rate in more than a decade, says a new study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although global measles vaccinations mostly improved from 2000 to 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic presented a setback in the efforts to eliminate the disease, according to the study published Wednesday.
Global coverage with the first dose of the measles vaccines increased from 72% in 2000 to 86% in 2019. However, that rate dropped to 83% in 2020 and continued to fall to 81% in 2021. The researchers say this is the lowest coverage rate since 2008.
The researchers noted in 2021 that 24.7 million infants didn’t receive their first dose, an increase of 2.4 million children without protection from the previous year.
Annual estimated measles deaths also decreased 83% from 2000 to 2021, from 761,000 to 128,000. The researchers say that “an estimated 56 million measles deaths were averted by vaccination.”
The data comes from 194 World Health Organization member states from six regions that have committed to eliminating measles.
“All WHO regions remain committed to measles elimination; however, no region has achieved and sustained elimination targets,” the researchers wrote. “To regain progress and achieve regional measles elimination targets during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating targeted efforts is necessary to reach all children with 2 MCV doses while implementing robust surveillance and identifying and closing immunity gaps to prevent cases and outbreaks.”
There are still sporadic measles outbreaks in the US, most recently in Ohio, where 21 cases have been confirmed in unvaccinated children.