Global measles deaths

Global measles deaths

Global measles deaths were already at a 23 year high in 2019 after several years of inadequate immunisation levels in a number of countries around the world. The coronavirus pandemic looks set to make matters worse.

The World Health Organisation is worried that disruptions to measles vaccination programmes this year in Africa have substantially raised the risk of large outbreaks in many countries. Immunisation coverage needs to be maintained at 95% or more to keep measles suppressed.

Too many babies have missed routine measles vaccination at 9 months and planned special immunisation campaigns in areas where the coverage was already too low pre-Covid had to be cancelled. We talk to paediatrician Ifedayo Adetifa at the Kemri Wellcome research programme in Kenya who’s been modelling outbreak scenarios in Kenya of this situation.

The risk of large outbreaks of measles in Kenya is now much greater, and likely to be worse in other countries in the region. But mounting vaccination campaigns as soon as possible would reduce the risk to zero. Sian Griffiths reports from a Canadian school in Quebec which is in the middle of a Covid-19 red zone.

The school’s principal decided to move classes outdoors to reduce the infection risk to pupils and staff. Many lessons are happening in three big wedding marquees erected in the school grounds, and the principal plans to keep this going through the Canadian winter.

A new study in BMJ Global Health identifies a widely unrecognised danger to the hundreds of millions of people (mainly women) who have to leave their homes to fetch water for their households. This is physical injury. A survey of more than 6,000 households in 24 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America found that about 15% of them have been injured while fetching water for the family.

The researchers were shocked by this. Injuries include broken limbs, dislocations, lacerations and burns. Northwestern University’s Sera Young says the causes range from falling over while carrying the water, falling into wells, physical assault, animal attacks and road accidents between the home and communal water sources.

Family doctor Ann Robinson is Claudia’s guest this week to talk about measles, the Moderna Covid vaccine and the latest results from trials of polypills.

Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

(Picture: Children outside a field clinic during a vaccination program against measles in Bangui in 2014.

Photo credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.)