Expert: Measles outbreak in Pakistan could have been prevented

Pakistan's measles outbreak, child health experts say, could have been prevented if warnings about poor vaccine coverage had been heeded by the government.

The recent surge in measles cases in the country is being blamed on poor quality and ailing vaccination programs that are beset with corruption, reports.

The latest epidemic began in October, eventually claiming more than 200 lives and resulting in a large number of hospital admissions. During the epidemic, fatalities climbed from 64 reported deaths in 2011 to a record 306 fatalities in 2012, according to the WHO. Measles cases also increased from 4,000 in 2011 to 14,000 in 2012.

Most of the deaths - 210 out of 306 in 2012 - occurred in the Sindh province where, according to Zulfiqar Bhutta, the founding chair of the division of women and child health at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, the demand for childhood vaccines is not being met.

"We have also confused people over the years by delivering some vaccines such as polio door to door and insisting that parents take their young infants and children many a mile for other vaccines", Bhutta said, reports. "This was a tragedy in waiting. We have been predicting for a while now that without adequate cover with routine immunizations in many parts of Pakistan, notably in rural populations, there was bound to be a situation where you would have an outbreak like this."

Bhutta added that the lack of vaccination coverage comes as a result of a lack of human and vaccination resources to those who need it most.