According to the World Health Organisation more than 41,000 people in Europe had been infected with measles in the first half of 2018. At least 37 people have died. The total far exceeds the 12-month totals reported for every other year this decade. So far, the highest annual total between 2010 and 2017 was 23,927 in 2017 and the lowest was 5273 in 2016.
Seven countries have seen over 1000 infections in children and adults this year (France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine). Ukraine has been the hardest hit, with over 23,000 people affected. Serbia reported the highest number of deaths --14.
What’s going on?
The measles virus is exceptionally contagious. To prevent outbreaks, at least 95% immunization coverage is needed every year in every community, as well as efforts to reach children, adolescents and adults who missed routine vaccinations. But some communities in Europe have slumped to below 70%.
One reason for low rates of vaccination is fear of the MMR vaccine. “In 2016 the Vaccine Confidence Project found that the European region was the most sceptical in the world on vaccine safety,” says Pauline Paterson, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
According to The Guardian, “The cause of the vaccine doubters has been embraced by some political movements, who advocate ‘parent choice’. The Five Star movement in Italy opposes a law that would have fined parents who do not immunise their children, while in France, Marine le Pen of the newly-renamed National Rally party is against mandatory vaccination.”
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