Revealed: 4m Nigerian children under-one missed measles vaccine in 2017
Latest data released by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) have revealed how four million children under one year old in Nigeria missed out on first dose of measles vaccine in 2017.
The data, which were made available to Africa Health Times by the Nigerian office of UNICEF on Wednesday showed that Nigeria led other low-income countries around the world which missed out on the crucial first dose of measles vaccine.
Nigeria was followed by India which had 2.9 million; Pakistan and Indonesia with 1.2 million each, and Ethiopia which denied 1.1 million of its children of the dose.
Failure to get children vaccinated with the measles dose was not limited to low-income countries within the period, this newspaper gathered. 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.
Worldwide coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are even more alarming, according to UNICEF. Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, nine have not introduced the second dose. Twenty-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 higher risk of measles during their childhood.
UNICEF said an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 across the world, or 21.1 million children a year on average, globally.
It argued that widening pockets of unvaccinated children had created a pathway to the measles outbreaks currently hitting countries around the world.
According the agency, 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, and that an estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, which represents a 22 per cent increase from the year before.
It quoted its Executive Director, Henrietta Fore as saying: “The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago. 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 organization noted that 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% in 2017, a figure that has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth. Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent. The World Health Organization recommends a threshold of 95 per cent immunization coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity’.
“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.”