CDC, WHO Find Global Progress Against Measles Threatened During COVID-19 Pandemic

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) this week released a new report finding that progress toward measles elimination worldwide continues to decline, posing increased risks for measles outbreaks. During 2020, the CDC and WHO report that more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of the measles vaccine – three million more than in 2019, marking the largest increase in two decades and creating dangerous conditions for outbreaks to occur.

Compared with the previous year, reported measles cases decreased by more than 80 percent in 2020. However, measles surveillance deteriorated with the lowest number of specimens sent for laboratory testing in over a decade. Weak measles monitoring, testing, and reporting jeopardize countries’ ability to prevent outbreaks, according to the CDC and WHO. Major measles outbreaks occurred in 26 countries and accounted for 84 percent of all reported cases during 2020.

First-dose measles vaccine coverage fell in 2020 and only 70 percent of children received their second dose, well below the 95 percent coverage needed to protect communities from the spread of the measles virus. Further, the CDC and WHO note that 24 measles vaccination campaigns in 23 countries originally planned for 2020 were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting at risk more than 93 million people for the disease.

Additional information from the CDC is available here. The full CDC-WHO report is available here.