Researchers predict that a major measles outbreak could happen in 2021 as one of the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
The study, published in the journal Lancet, called for urgent intervention into the matter to prevent the potential rise of the measles as an epidemic.
Lead author Professor Kim Mulholland, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Chair of the World Health Organization’s SAGE Working Group on measles and rubella vaccines, said that many children have missed out on measles vaccination this year, making future measles outbreaks inevitable.
Professor Mulholland said while 2020 had been a quiet year for measles, in part due to travel reductions and national Covid-19 control measures, the economic impacts would lead to many cases of childhood malnutrition.
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The researchers also mentioned that exacerbating health and malnutrition could worsen the severity of measles, leading to poorer outcomes and more deaths, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
He said: “Children who die from measles are often malnourished, but acute measles pushes many surviving children into malnutrition. Malnutrition, along with measles-associated immune suppression, leads to delayed mortality, while co-existing vitamin A deficiency can also lead to measles-associated blindness.”
“The coming months are likely to see increasing numbers of unimmunised children who are susceptible to measles. Many living in poor, remote communities where health systems are less resilient, and malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are already increasing,” he added.
According to WHO estimates, by the end of October 2020, delayed vaccination campaigns in 26 countries have led to 94 million children missing scheduled measles vaccine doses.
“All these factors create the environment for severe measles outbreaks in 2021, accompanied by increased death rates and the serious consequences of measles that were common decades ago,” Professor Mulholland said.
“This is despite the fact that we have a highly cost-effective way to prevent this disease through measles vaccination.”
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