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New drive for zero measles deaths as UK pumps cash into vaccines

Friday October 27th, 2017

The number of people dying from measles worldwide last year was less than 100,000 for the first time, it was announced last night.

The number represents a dramatic decline since the year 2000 when more than 550,000 died from the disease, the World Health Organisation said.

WHO attributed the reduction to successful vaccination campaigns around the world, especially in many of the poorest regions, fuelled with funding from the UK and from Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

And it called for the world to press on to eliminate the disease.

Some 5.5 billion people have been vaccinated against the disease this century.

The WHO report says six countries account for half the 20 million children who have not been vaccinated. They are Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Vaccine Alliance Gavi has raised £20 billion for vaccination campaigns in the first two decades of this century. Nearly a quarter of this has come from the UK, the single biggest donor, while nearly 20% has come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. British contributions have soared since 2013, Gavi records show.

Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, from WHO, said: “We have seen a substantial drop in measles deaths for more than two decades, but now we must strive to reach zero measles cases.

“Measles elimination will only be reached if measles vaccines reach every child, everywhere.”

Dr Seth Berkley, of Gavi, said: “This remarkable drop in measles deaths is the culmination of years of hard work by health workers, governments and development agencies to vaccinate millions of children in the world’s poorest countries.

“However, we cannot afford to be complacent. Too many children are still missing out on lifesaving vaccines. To reach these children and set ourselves on a realistic road to measles elimination we need to dramatically improve routine immunisation backed by strong health systems.”

Tags: Africa | Asia | Child Health | Flu & Viruses | UK News | World Health

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