The World Health Organization has called for an “urgent” vaccination campaign to combat a measles outbreak across Europe after more than 42,000 cases were reported last year.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the organization's European branch warned of a significant increase in the number of cases, noting that Kazakhstan was one of the worst-affected countries.
The report said: As in other countries in the region, the virus is spreading rapidly and the outbreak comes as the number of children who miss routine immunization doses during the “Covid-19” pandemic is increasing. He said 65% of reported measles cases in Kazakhstan were among children under the age of 5, with Kazakh authorities implementing “comprehensive outbreak response measures”, including a major vaccination campaign.
More than 42,000 measles cases were reported in 41 countries in 2023, a huge increase compared to 941 cases reported in 2022, the World Health Organization in Europe has indicated.
In an earlier announcement in December, the health authority called for “urgent action” to tackle the epidemic, with WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge stressing that vaccines should be a priority.
Urgent vaccination efforts are needed to stop the spread and prevent further spread, he said.
According to the World Health Organization, the rapid increase in measles cases due to a “decline in vaccine coverage” during the Covid-19 pandemic has “significantly affected the effectiveness of the immunization system” in Europe. Between 2020 and 2022, more than 1.8 million children lost the opportunity to be vaccinated against measles.
The organization recommended that countries achieve at least 95% coverage with standard two-dose measles vaccines. In 2022, second dose coverage dropped to just 91%.
Symptoms of measles caused by an airborne virus include cough and fever, and in rare cases can lead to encephalitis, pneumonia, blindness, and even death.
Although prophylactic treatments are available to reduce the severity of symptoms, and vaccinations have led to a significant decrease in global infections in recent decades, there is currently no cure for this disease.