The number of deaths resulting from measles has fallen across the world, but more still needs to be done to meet the target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Newly-released statistics show that measles deaths have been reduced by 74 percent over the past 10 years, but this figure is short of the WHO’s 90 percent target.
The researchers behind the latest report said lacking immunisation in children and outbreaks of the illness in both Africa and India were to blame for the target not being met.
However, the progress made has still been impressive; in 2010 there were 139,300 deaths from measles, compared to 535,300 in 2000.
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Commenting on the fall in deaths, Peter Strebel, one of the authors of the study, said: “This is still a huge success.
“You don't reduce measles deaths by three quarters without significantly accelerating efforts.”
Improving access to vaccination programmes has proved to be vital for the success of the measles campaign.
Between 2000 and 2008 the uptake of vaccinations was incredibly high, but when investment in the programme and political issues arose in 2008/2009 many children were not immunised against the illness.
As a result, large-scale outbreaks occurred in Africa and Asia, and also in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.
But despite this setback, Africa was still the region where most progress was made – deaths fell by 85 percent in the continent.
A new strategy has now been launched to renew eradication efforts and meet the WHO’s target.
The Measles and Rubella initiative is a collaboration of global healthcare organisations and as its name suggests, not only will it tackle the devastating effects of measles, it will also try and combat rubella.
“A three-quarters drop in measles deaths worldwide shows just how effective well-run vaccination programmes can be," said Dr Margaret Chan the WHO’s Director-General.
“Now we need to take the next logical step and vaccinate children against rubella, too.”
Meanwhile, Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF, added: “Recent measles outbreaks have affected children in the world unevenly, with the poorest and youngest children the most at risk of death or disability.
“This new Strategic Plan stresses that measles and rubella vaccinations must be delivered to children deep in the poorest and hardest to reach communities.”
The results of the study, which was funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been published in the Lancet journal.
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