Measles in Europe: infection rates highest in a decade, says UN health agency

UNICEF/Heather Papowitz A girl being vaccinated against measles. Photo: UNICEF/Heather Papowitz

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Although more children than ever before are being vaccinated against measles across Europe, overall infection rates are the highest in a decade, and a three-fold increase on last year, according to new data published on Thursday by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2018, measles killed 72 children and adults in the European Region, which consists of 53 countries, including Azerbaijan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Close to 82,600 people in 47 of those 53 countries contracted the virus, representing the highest number of annual cases in the past decade: three times the total reported in 2017, and 15 times the record low, reported in 2016.

The biggest hotspot by far, is Ukraine with 53,218 reported cases in 2018, followed by Serbia with 5,076, Israel with 2,919, France with 2,913 and Italy with 2,517.

This surge in measles cases last year coincided with more children than ever before receiving their full two-dose vaccination in 2017, showing an estimated 90 per cent immunization coverage – the highest since records began in 2000. Coverage with just the first dose of the vaccine also increased slightly to 95 per cent, the highest level since 2013.

Forty-three European countries interrupted transmission of endemic measles for at least 12 months as of the end of 2017, showing that elimination of the disease is well within reach for the whole region.

WHO explained that this seeming contradiction between the record numbers of those being protected, as well as contracting the disease, can be explained by the fact that vaccination rates nationally, are not matched by major immunization gaps at a regional and local level.

“The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunization rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation,” said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, Director of WHO’s Regional Office for Europe. “While data indicate exceptionally high immunization coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease”.

“Progress in achieving high national coverage is commendable,” added Dr. Nedret Emiroglu, who heads the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases for WHO Europe. “However, it cannot make us blind to the people and places that are still being missed. It is here that we must now concentrate increased efforts. We should never become complacent about our successes but continue to strive to reach the final mile. Together we can make this happen,” he stressed.

To prevent outbreaks and eliminate measles, WHO says countries need to sustain at least 95 per cent of national and sub-national immunization coverage with two doses of measles vaccine, as well as identify and target all pockets of under-immunization among their populations. This will ensure protection for everyone – including babies too young to be vaccinated and others who cannot be immunized due to existing diseases and medical conditions.

WHO has developed a European Vaccine Action Plan for 2015 to 2020, which lays out a strategy endorsed by all the region’s 53 Member States to eliminate both measles and rubella.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here’s how to build energy infrastructures fit for the future

Countries urged to make ‘digital world’ safer for children

Project Manager – 2024

COP21 Breaking News_09 December: List of Recent Climate Funding Announcements

NextGenerationEU: European Commission raises further €10 billion in a successful third bond to support Europe’s recovery

Early detection of chronic kidney disease can save lives and cut costs

How learning in a crisis can build more resilient leadership

4 ways regulators must keep up with the global digital economy

One-sixth of the world’s economy has now pledged to cut CO2 to zero by 2050

France breaks budget promises once again and the EU’s finance offices are shaking

6 ways least developed countries can participate in the 4IR

This robot has soft hands. It could be the future of sustainable production

G20 starts to tackle inequality

Syria: UN-backed watchdog says chemical weapon ‘likely used’ in February attack

The impossible end of the war in Syria

LGBTQ+: The invisible poor on our healthcare

Warsaw wins 2020 Access City Award for making the city more accessible to citizens with disabilities

In Rwanda, high-speed drones are delivering blood to remote communities

How businesses can create an ethical culture in the age of tech

Haitian President at General Assembly calls for essential development aid as UN mission shifts away from peacekeeping

UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

This city sent health workers instead of cops to hundreds of cases. This is what it found

Ending the era of dirty textiles

UN resolution paves way for mass use of driverless cars

Trump aims trade offensive solely to China, renews truce with EU

State aid: Commission approves UK schemes to support SMEs affected by coronavirus outbreak

Climate change as determinant of health: the 21st Century challenge

Happiness apps: how schools are joining the fight for better student mental health

€6.1 billion to promote sustainable fisheries and safeguard fishing communities

State aid: Commission approves €20 billion Spanish guarantee schemes for companies and self-employed affected by coronavirus outbreak

Africans can fight COVID-19 with stakeholder capitalism

7 key challenges for the future of ASEAN – and how to solve them

Does the “climate change” require ombudsman services for environment?

LUX prize will be awarded jointly by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy

Scotland “shows the way” to separatist movements as Catalonia calls a vote on independence

COVID-19 lockdown hits working mothers harder than fathers

Ukraine takes EU money and runs to sign with Russia

5G networks: to slice or not to slice?

FROM THE FIELD: Argentina Preserving Pristine Forests

Feeling the heat? This is how to keep cool as temperatures rise

GSMA Announces First Keynote Speakers for 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

End ‘political opportunism’ that’s letting hate speech flourish, urges top UN genocide official

Plastic waste from Western countries is poisoning Indonesia

5 things to know about African migration

State aid: Commission approves €2 billion Italian guarantee scheme to support trade credit insurance market in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

Only one in five countries has a healthcare strategy to deal with climate change

The real cost of addiction

This is why retail is such a sore point in India-US trade relations

Security Council urged to help spare Syrians from ‘devastation’

18th European Forum on Eco-innovation live from Barcelona: What’s next for eco-labelling?

2020: a year for the history books, in visuals

Breaking Down Gender Barriers

The global appetite for meat is growing, and it’s harming the planet

Security Council urged to act with ‘one strong voice’ on raft of ills plaguing Middle East and North Africa

How to harness the energy of social innovators for an inclusive recovery

Commission launches debate on more efficient decision-making in EU social policy

It’s time to change the debate around AI ethics. Here’s how

Climate change: won or lost in cities or by cities?

Refugee crisis update: EU fails to relocate immigrants from Greece and Italy

Qualcomm to be the next target of EU antitrust regulators? China might be the answer

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s