Nigeria is among African countries on the danger list of measles epidemics with increasing number of cases reported worldwide which is said to have quadrupled compared with the same time last year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned.
The UN body said provisional data indicated ‘a clear trend,’ with all regions of the world seeing outbreaks.
Africa had witnessed the most dramatic rise – up 700 per cent.
The agency said that over 20 million children worldwide have missed out on the measles vaccine annually in the past eight years.
A statement signed by Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, at the weekend in Abuja, also ranked Nigeria as one of the lowest and middle-income countries in a critical situation.
About 169 million children were estimated to have missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, or 21.1 million children a year on average.
But, the numbers for the second dose of measles vaccination are more alarming. Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, nine have not introduced the second dose.
Also, 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not introduced the necessary second dose in the national vaccination schedule, putting over 17 million infants a year at a higher risk of measles during their childhood.
In high income countries, while coverage with the first dose is 94 per cent, coverage for the second dose drops to 91 per cent, according to the latest data.
The statement said: “The United States tops the list of high-income countries with the most children not receiving the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million. It is followed by France and the United Kingdom, with over 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated infants, respectively, during the same period.
“In low and middle-income countries, the situation is critical. In 2017, for example, Nigeria had the highest number of children less than one year of age who missed out on the first dose, at nearly four million.
It was followed by India 2.9 million, Pakistan and Indonesia 1.2 million each, and Ethiopia 1.1 million,” he said.
According to Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, the ground for the global measles outbreaks witnessed in the world today was laid years ago.
She further said that measles was far too contagious and “it was critical not only to increase coverage brutal so to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone.
“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”
The statement also noted that “in the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide up nearly 300 per cent from the same period last year.
An estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, a 22 per cent increase from the year before.
“Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease. However, due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases fear or skepticism about vaccines, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85 per cent in 2017.
The figure that has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth,” the statement said, adding, “Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent.”
The World Health Organisation recommends a threshold of 95 per cent immunisation coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity,’