BBC News

Measles strategy misses targets

By James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News

image captionIn 2010, 19 million infants did not get their measles vaccine

Global efforts to cut the number of deaths from measles have fallen short of World Health Organization (WHO) targets.

An analysis published in the Lancet said deaths had fallen by 74% between 2000 and 2010, but the target was 90%.

Outbreaks in Africa and delays in vaccination programmes in India have stalled progress, researchers say.

A new campaign to tackle the disease has been launched, which will combine measles and rubella jabs.

In 2000 there were 535,300 deaths from measles. This fell to 139,300 deaths in 2010, according to the analysis.


The Measles and Rubella Initiative, a collaboration of international organisations including the WHO, said the decline in measles deaths was strong up to 2007, but measures "faltered" in 2008 and 2009.

This lead to outbreaks in Africa, Asia and even Europe.

Africa and India accounted for a combined total 79% of all deaths from measles between 2000 and 2010.

Anthony Lake - the executive director of the United Nations children's organisation Unicef, which is also part of the Measles and Rubella Initiative - said there were still 382 deaths from measles every day.

"Every one of them could have been saved by a vaccine," he said.

However, he said the 74% drop in deaths showed "vaccine campaigns can succeed even in the poorest countries and the remotest regions".

The next target is a 95% drop in deaths from their 2000 levels by 2015.

Dr Okwo-Bele, director of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals at the WHO, said: "We have reason to be optimistic that the 95% goal will be achieved by 2015."

The new campaign will see the introduction of a vaccine for both measles and rubella.

Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, said: "A three-quarters drop in measles deaths worldwide shows just how effective well-run vaccination programmes can be.

"Now we need to take the next logical step and vaccinate children against rubella, too."

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