Vaccines have saved tens of millions of lives but immunization rates have stagnated in recent years due in part to fake news stories claiming vaccinations can cause measles, autism or sterility.
Here are some key facts about vaccinations:
Immunization prevents two to three million deaths every year, and could prevent another 1.5 million if vaccination programs were fully implemented. But vaccination rates have “dangerously” stalled, according to a July report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
Last year, 19.8 million children under the age of one did not receive the basic triple “DPT” vaccines against tetanus, polio, diphtheria and whooping cough, or were not protected against measles. “That means that more than one in 10 are not getting all the vaccinations they need,” said Kate O’Brien, head of WHO’s vaccine department.
Two-thirds of these unvaccinated children live in ten countries: Angola, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, The Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Vietnam. Worldwide, DPT and measles vaccination rates have stalled since 2010 at about 86 percent.
For measles, the figure has dropped to 69 percent if one takes into account the booster, which is required for a high level of immunity. While these figures may seem high, they are still “insufficient” and need to climb to 95 percent, the WHO has warned.
Measles outbreaks are occurring worldwide, in countries rich and poor. More than 360,000 cases have been reported since January, the highest figures since 2006, said the WHO. There were 90,000 cases reported in Europe during the first six months of 2019, more than double the number from the same period last year.
The disease can also be fatal. In 2000, measles is estimated to have killed more than half-a-million people. In 2016, that figure had dropped to 90,000 but climbed the following year to 110,000.