The United States had registered as of Wednesday 695 measles cases since the beginning of the year, the worst resurgence of the disease since its official elimination in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC).
This new record (the most recent was in 2014, with 667 cases for the whole year) comes against a backdrop of growing anti-vaccine movement: parents, opposed to the vaccination of their children, invoke religious exemptions that exist in most US states to circumvent immunization requirements in schools.
The US authorities are trying to combat the reluctance, stressing the importance of vaccinating children against a disease that can lead to complications with potentially fatal consequences.
“Measles vaccines are among the most studied medical products we have, and their safety has been established for years,” US Secretary of Health Alex Azar said Wednesday in a statement confirming the new record.
He announced a huge national campaign for next week, “to reinforce the message that vaccines are healthy and an effective way” to protect families.
22 US states affected
According to figures published Wednesday night by UNICEF, the United States are among the developed countries those with the most children unvaccinated against the disease, ahead of France and the United Kingdom.
The number of children under one year of age who did not receive a first dose of vaccine during the 2010-2017 period in the United States was 2.59 million, compared with 608,000 in France and 527,000 in the United Kingdom. says this study by the UN agency for the protection of children, which relies on figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).
While 22 US states are affected by the resurgence of this highly contagious disease, the largest pockets are found in the states of New York and Washington, according to the CDC, the official US health agency.
New York State is by far the most affected, with two major pockets, in New York itself (390 cases recorded as of Wednesday) and in Rockland County, in the Greater Suburbs of New York (199 cases in April 22).
In these two pockets, which have a large Orthodox Jewish population, local authorities declared a state of health emergency for the most affected neighborhoods, imposing restrictions on vaccination for residents without medical dispensation, strict controls of certificates vaccination in schools, and fines for offenders.
Measles is in full resurgence this year around the world: the reported cases were multiplied by four in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period 2018, indicated mid-April the World Health Organization (WHO).
In total, around the world, some 169 million children under the age of one year – 21.1 million children a year – had not received a first dose of vaccine in the period 2010-2017. indicated Unicef.
Nigeria (4 million unvaccinated children), India (2.9 million), Pakistan and Indonesia are the countries with the highest number of unimmunized children.
“The basics for measles outbreaks that we know today were laid several years ago,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef, quoted in a statement.
“If we really want to stop the spread of this dangerous and preventable disease, we must immunize all children, in rich and poor countries,” she added.