Major Measles Outbreaks Likely in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

Newborn With Measles

Major measles outbreaks will likely occur during 2021 as an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new academic article.

The article, published in The Lancet, calls for urgent international action to prevent potentially devastating measles epidemics in the coming years.

Lead author Professor Kim Mulholland, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Chair of the World Health Organization’s SAGE Working Group on measles and rubella vaccines, said that many children have missed out on measles vaccination this year, making future measles outbreaks inevitable. 

Professor Mulholland said while 2020 had been a quiet year for measles, in part due to travel reductions and national COVID-19 control measures, the economic impacts would lead to many cases of childhood malnutrition.  

Malnutrition worsens the severity of measles, leading to poorer outcomes and more deaths, especially in low- and middle-income countries. 

“Children who die from measles are often malnourished, but acute measles pushes many surviving children into malnutrition,” he said. “Malnutrition, along with measles-associated immune suppression, leads to delayed mortality, while co-existing vitamin A deficiency can also lead to measles-associated blindness.

“The coming months are likely to see increasing numbers of unimmunized children who are susceptible to measles. Many live in poor, remote communities where health systems are less resilient, and malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are already increasing.” 

Professor Mulholland said the COVID-19 pandemic had also had a profound effect on the control of vaccine-preventable diseases, with vaccination campaigns paused in the early months of 2020 and routine immunization services greatly disrupted in many countries. 

The WHO estimates that by the end of October 2020, delayed vaccination campaigns in 26 countries have led to 94 million children missing scheduled measles vaccine doses. 

“All these factors create the environment for severe measles outbreaks in 2021, accompanied by increased death rates and the serious consequences of measles that were common decades ago,” Professor Mulholland said. “This is despite the fact that we have a highly cost-effective way to prevent this disease through measles vaccination.”

In 2019, before the pandemic started, the world experienced a dramatic return of measles, more than at any time in the past 20 years. WHO data indicates that there were 9.8 million measles cases and 207,000 deaths in 2019, 50 percent more than in 2016.

Most measles deaths in 2019 have been in Africa, many associated with major outbreaks in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Measles also re-emerged in South America, especially among Indigenous communities. 

“The inadequate vaccination that led to the 2019 measles outbreaks has still not been adequately addressed, and the situation is now exacerbated by service disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic so that high-risk, unimmunized children are clustered together in unreached communities,” Professor Mulholland said.

The article has identified three pillars for immediate action:  

  • Help countries reach unimmunized children through catch-up immunization and campaigns
  • Better prepare countries for expected outbreaks. WHO and partners have developed a Strategic Response Plan to assist with measles outbreak prevention, preparedness and response 
  • Maintain measles and rubella elimination targets. WHO’s new Measles Rubella Strategic Framework 2021−2030, aligned with the Immunization Agenda 2030 provides a plan for strengthening routine immunization and surveillance. 

Professor Mulholland said the solutions would help end the cycle of inadequate immunization and outbreaks of the past decade. 

“Without concerted efforts now, it is likely that the coming years will see an increase in measles and its severe, frequently fatal, complications,” he said.

Reference: “Action needed now to prevent further increases in measles and measles deaths in the coming years” by Kim Mulholland, Katrina Kretsinger, Liya Wondwossen and Natasha Crowcroft, 12 November 2020, The Lancet.
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32394-1

4 Comments on "Major Measles Outbreaks Likely in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic"

  1. Sekar Vedaraman | November 17, 2020 at 5:18 pm | Reply

    Yes. I believe this is an accurate prediction. It is mentioned in our ancient Sankstrit Texts and indeed action needs to be taken now , to ensure that the Chldren are protected when they are most vulnerable and the impact of this disease is minimised.

    Measles is not just limited to new borns, it can also affect teenagers and also adults who have not been affected in Childhood and have not got immunity. I also suspect that the immunity from this disease has a long lifetime, but it may not neccto handle essarily be life-long.It is especially diificult when it impacts an adult or an elderly, whose immunity levels are compromised dueto poor food habits.

    If all the content available ob C-19 globally is made available , AS WELL AS OTHER DISEAES FOR WHICH WE HAVE SOLUTIONS ,and made more easily and accessible to Scoentists and others, who have been trained in Science, I am sure the ability to find a cure not just for Covid-19 , but all Diseaes which have plagued humanity since time immemorial.

    If such a Health related Database, is created on Steroids for all Health related problems faced by All creatures which exist, scientific progress may take a leap of great value for the survoval of life as we know it on this planet ,and halt the march of the Extinction story

    All Doctors and Medical Researchers should be taught Root Cause analysis as part of Medical Education. This can be taken to many levels, and insights obtained. Thanks for mking such a knowledge data base available to humanity,

    None of us have the right to profit from the misery and death of others. This my personal view. Yet Innovation is required — else, the advancement and finding of curesfor the numerou s illnesses, (physical , mental/spiritual) will be dampened as most of humanity appears to be driven by the lucre.So a fine balance needs to be achieved.

  2. Please vaccinate. In 1900 half of all children under the age of FIVE died. All preventable diseases today. Just vaccinate! Don’t get your medical advice from Hollywood starlets nor vitamin salesmen at the health food store.

  3. why the campaigns of Bill & Melinda in India and Africa had so many consequences?
    For what I know if Bill goes in India the government will take Bill & Melinda and put them on prison, if not giving them death penalty for provoked epidemic. I think this is perhaps a fake new, but for what I know, fake news are a specialty of MSM or governments propaganda. And this is the real outcome of the terror propaganda of Covid infection (the word pandemic is not the right term)

  4. Roger Peterson | November 20, 2020 at 1:41 am | Reply

    Interesting. This looks super cool. I haven’t read it all yet, but I’ll be back to read the rest of it.

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