The Measles Initiative Vaccinates One Billion Children in First Decade

The Measles Initiative announced yesterday that one billion children have been vaccinated against the measles since the creation of the initiative in 2001. The historic billionth vaccination was received by a child in Mozambique this past May.

Measles is a highly-contagious disease that is spread through air. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, and skin rash. Although the disease does not cause death directly, measles weakens the immune system and opens the door to debilitating conditions such as blindness, pneumonia, diarrhea, and encephalitis (a swelling of the brain that can lead to seizures and memory loss, among having other effects). The secondary effects of measles are only worsened in children that may already have a weakened immune system due to malnourishment. Needless to say, the countries in which measles is highly prevalent also suffer from food shortages.

Since the establishment of the immunization campaign known as the Measles Initiative by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, global measles mortality has decreased by 78% from 2000 to 2008. Overall, this has resulted in a 24% decrease in global childhood mortality.

However, quite ironically, it is these incredible achievements in the fight against measles and global childhood mortality that today threaten the global eradication of measles. Because of the decline in measles-caused deaths, the illness has come to be perceived as less of a threat by certain governments and donors, who have recently redirected their donations to the Initiative. If the Initiative loses momentum before the complete eradication of the disease, however, the recently-made progress stands in grave danger of being rolled back.

What will YOU do to ensure that the less than $1 measles vaccine is delivered to all children who need it in the future?

Red Cross volunteer Regina holds a vial of measles vaccine at a health clinic in the Central African Republic, April 2011. Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Parents wait in line with their children to receive a lifesaving measles vaccination in Mozambique, May 2011. One child helped make history when he received the one billionth dose of the vaccine provided by the Measles Initiative since 2001. Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation

Alison Inceu
ainceu.nyc@gmail.com

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