UNICEF says an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, creating a pathway for the resurgence of the preventable disease

Measles cases in Ireland have increased by more than 200 percent from 2017 to 2018 as UNICEF reports that an average of more than 20 million children annually have missed their first measles vaccination since 2010.

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A new report detailing the spread of measles worldwide by UNICEF found that an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, or 21.1 million children a year on average.

The report states: "Widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today."

According to UNICEF, there were more than 110,000 measles cases reported worldwide in the first three months of 2019, a massive increase of nearly 300 percent compared to the first three months of 2018.

In 2017, an estimated 110,000 people, mostly children, died from measles, a growth of 22 percent from 2016.

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In Ireland, there were 25 reported cases of measles in 2017, which jumped to 86 reported cases in 2018, a growth of 244 percent.

So far in 2019, there have been 25 confirmed cases of measles in Ireland according to the Health Service Executive (HSE), who also confirmed an outbreak of measles in North Dublin and Donegal for this year. 

Peter Power, UNICEF Ireland’s Executive Director, says: “The foundation for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago.”

“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. 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.”

The United States tops the list of high-income countries with the most children not receiving the first dose of the vaccine between 2010 and 2017, at more than 2.5 million. It is followed by France and the United Kingdom, with over 600,000 and 500,000 unvaccinated infants, respectively, during the same period.

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Power added: “Measles is a highly contagious disease.”

“It is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone.”