The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged that “every opportunity” is used to vaccinate susceptible children, adolescents and adults against measles, including health workers with uncertain vaccination status.
The call to action comes as data published by the organisation this week shows that in the first two months of this year, 34,300 measles cases were reported in 42 countries of the WHO European Region, with more than 70 per cent of these cases occurring in Ukraine. Thirteen measles-related deaths have been reported in three countries, namely, Albania, Romania and Ukraine.
The WHO said that while the European region achieved its highest ever estimated coverage for the second dose of measles vaccination in 2017 (90%), countries with measles outbreaks have experienced a range of challenges in tackling the disease in recent years, including a decline or stagnation in overall routine immunisation coverage in some cases, low coverage among some groups and immunity gaps in older people.
“If outbreak response is not timely and comprehensive, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals and potentially spread to additional countries within and beyond the region,” the WHO warned.