Millions of children miss measles shots, creating outbreaks — UNICEF

The United States recorded 695 cases of measles in 2019, the most of any year since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, health authorities said on April 24, 2019. (AFP / Johannes Eisele)
Updated 25 April 2019

Millions of children miss measles shots, creating outbreaks — UNICEF

LONDON: More than 20 million children a year missed out on measles vaccines across the world in the past eight years, laying a path of exposure to a virus that is now causing disease outbreaks globally, a United Nations report said on Thursday.
“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF, adding: “The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago.”
The UNICEF report said an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 — equating to 21.1 million children a year on average.
As a result of greater vulnerability to the disease, the measles infections worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 against the same period in 2018 to 112,163 cases, according to World Health Organization data.
In 2017, some 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles — up 22 percent from the year before, UNICEF said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can kill and can cause blindness, deafness or brain damage. It is currently spreading in outbreaks in many parts of the world, including in the United States, Europe, the Philippines, Tunisia and Thailand.
Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children and the WHO says 95 percent vaccine coverage is needed for “herd immunity” against measles.
But due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases fear or skepticism about vaccines, UNICEF said, the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85 percent in 2017 — a level that has remained similar for the past decade. Global coverage for the second dose is even lower, at 67 percent.
Among high-income countries, the United States — which currently is fighting its biggest measles outbreak in almost 20 years — topped UNICEF’s list of places with the most children missing the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million.
Next came France and Britain, with more than 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated children, respectively, during the same period.
In poorer countries, however, the situation is “critical,” UNICEF’s report found. Nigeria in 2017, for example, had the highest number of children under one year old who missed out on the first dose, at nearly 4 million. It was followed by India, with 2.9 million, Pakistan and Indonesia, with 1.2 million each, and Ethiopia, with 1.1 million.
Fore said measles was “far too contagious” a disease to be ignored, and urged health officials to do more to fight it.
“If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike,” she said.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.