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Despite Progress In Reducing Measles Deaths, International Community Falls Short Of 90% Reduction Target, Study Says

The number of deaths from measles fell about 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, from slightly more than 535,000 in 2000 to an estimated 139,200 people worldwide in 2010, “missing an internationally agreed target for a 90 percent fall mainly because of low vaccine coverage in India and Africa where the virus kills tens of thousands a year,” Reuters reports. A study led by the WHO and involving researchers from Penn State University and the CDC, published on Tuesday in the Lancet, “found that despite rapid progress, regular measles outbreaks in Africa and slow implementation of disease control in India were major concerns and led to the target being missed,” the news agency writes (Kelland, 4/24). According to the Associated Press/Seattle Times, “the figures come with a big grain of salt [because] scientists only had solid data for 65 countries,” and “[f]or the 128 others, they used modeling to come up with their estimates” (Cheng, 4/23). “[E]xperts say increasing vaccination rates to above 95 percent worldwide and keeping them up is the only way to eradicate measles,” according to Reuters (4/24).

On Monday, the WHO, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation, and the American Red Cross announced the Measles & Rubella Initiative, “a five-part plan to reduce measles deaths by 95 percent around the world by 2015 and eliminate both measles and rubella” by 2020 in five WHO regions, including the Americas, Western Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean, European, and African regions, CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports. “The plan for all regions is to provide greater vaccination coverage with two doses that contain both measles and rubella; better surveillance to monitor and track spread; respond rapidly to outbreaks and monitor cases; enhance community outreach; and boost demand for the vaccine and support research and development,” according to the blog (Young, 4/23). However, an additional $112 million is needed to reach the goals for 2015, Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” While the GAVI Alliance “will help, … sizeable amounts of its funding are being channeled into much more expensive vaccines for pneumococcal disease and rotavirus,” the blog notes (4/23). According to CNN, GAVI is “investing $605 million to make sure developing countries have access to both the measles-rubella (MR) vaccine and the second dose measles vaccine” (4/23).

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