Significantly More People Died From Measles in 2022 Than in 2021

The pandemic's disruption of childhood vaccination had consequences

MMR vaccine
A measles mumps rubella vaccine in action.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Vaccines exist to reduce the impact of measles worldwide. And yet, according to a recent CDC report, measles deaths rose a shocking 43% between 2021 and 2022. As a reminder, 2023 marked the 60th anniversary of the first measles vaccine being approved for use in the general public, according to the World Health Organization. Measles deaths being on the rise is really not something that should be happening in the 2020s, and yet here we are.

The CDC report cites children missing their measles vaccination due to COVID-19 as a factor in this alarming statistic. The report in question, titled “Progress Toward Measles Elimination — Worldwide, 2000–2022,” also notes an overall 18% rise in measles cases from 2021 to 2022 and “large or disruptive outbreaks” in no less than 37 nations around the world. This is also up considerably from 2021, when similar outbreaks were only recorded in 22 countries.

This rise in measles echoes the results of an alarming UNICEF study released earlier this year that illustrated how disruptive the pandemic was to kids getting their routine vaccinations.

“Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated,” said John Vertefeuille, the director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division, in a statement. “Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths.”

Kate O’Brien of the World Health Organization also called for more measles vaccinations worldwide. “The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries following the pandemic is an alarm bell for action,” O’Brien said in a statement. “Measles is called the inequity virus for good reason. It is the disease that will find and attack those who aren’t protected.”

The CDC went on to recommend that children get two doses of the MCV vaccine to counterbalance “pandemic-related immunity gaps.” Hopefully, at this time next year, we’ll see these trends looking more stable.

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