The year 2019 saw a totally preventable disease claim the lives of more than 140,000 people, mostly children and babies. It happened as unvaccinated children created a pathway for measles outbreaks globally. Some of the outbreaks are still continuing.
In 2019, more 400,000 cases of measles were reported globally, with an additional 250,000 cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone.
In the first three months of 2019, the number of measles cases tripled over the same period of 2018. Dr. Kate O'Brien, an immunization expert with the World Health Organization, cites many reasons children are not getting vaccinated."The main reason for failure to vaccinate against measles is families, communities are not having access to the vaccine," O’Brien said.
Conflict and poor health systems in low income countries prevent families from vaccinating their children. But in rich countries, some parents are opting out of immunizations. The United States tops the list with 2.5 million children missing their first dose of the measles vaccine. Two doses are essential for immunization.
The CDC reported more than 1,200 cases of measles in 31 U.S. states by late December, the highest number in 25 years. Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist at Baylor College of Medicine, says the numbers are alarming.
"In the United States now, measles epidemics are becoming the new normal in this country, after we eliminated measles in 2000," Hotez said.
In 2019, four European countries — Britain, Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece — lost their measles eradication status, meaning measles is now considered endemic in these countries."In other words, we're backsliding," said Kate O'Brien with the WHO.