Measles makes a comeback due to patchy vaccination - EU

Immunisation rates vary from below 70% to above 95% across the 53 member states

Poor immunisation rates are being blamed for a surge in measles cases across Europe this year, pushing the number of cases to an eight-year high, the WHO reports.

More than 41,000 children and adults in the WHO European region were infected with measles in the first six months of this year, with the Ukraine accounting for more than half of the reported cases.

And France is among six other countries reporting more than 1000 infections this year, along with Georgia, Greece, Italy, Serbia and the Russian Federation.

“Monthly country reports also indicate that at least 37 people have died due to measles so far this year,” according to a WHO statement.

Measles cases have surged since a decade-low of 5273 cases in 2016, the WHO figures show.

There has already been a roughly 70% increase in cases compared with all of 2017, when 23,927 cases were recorded.

The problem has been linked to patchy immunisation rates in the 53 member states in the region, which vary from below 70% to above 95%, says the WHO, which is helping implement increased surveillance, and routine and supplemental immunisation.

According to an assessment by European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC), also released this week, 43 member states have interrupted the endemic spread of measles and 42 have interrupted rubella.

However, inadequate surveillance and low immunisation coverage is a concern in some countries, with chains of measles transmission continuing for more than 12 months in some spots.

This means some countries that interrupted the spread of measles have reverted back to an endemic status, according to the RVC assessment, which is based on 2017 reporting.

“This partial setback demonstrates that every person who is not immune remains vulnerable, no matter where they live, and every country must keep pushing to increase coverage and close immunity gaps, even after achieving interrupted or eliminated status,” says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, director of the division of health emergencies and communicable diseases at the WHO European region office.

The 53 WHO Europe region countries will review mid-term progress of their European Vaccine Action Plan next month.

More information:

WHO. Measles cases hit record high in the European Region.