Measles deaths reach record lows

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that annual measles deaths have reached historic lows due to global routine measles immunization programs.

The rate of measles deaths dropped 78 percent between 2000 and 2012. WHO said that approximately 13.8 million deaths have been prevented because of measles vaccination programs.

Through routine immunization programs and help from the Measles and Rubella Initiative, countries have vaccinated 145 million children against measles in 2012, and more than 1 billion since 2000.

WHO said that despite gains and progress toward eliminating measles, some populations are still unprotected. Five of six regions still experience large outbreaks, and the African, Eastern Mediterranean and European regions will most likely not reach their elimination targets.

WHO said that without improved coverage, outbreaks will continue. The ability to contain outbreaks is increased with routine vaccination coverage and quality vaccination campaigns.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative is led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and WHO. The program works to eliminate child deaths from measles and congenital rubella syndrome.

The WHO Region of the Americas achieved the elimination of measles in 2002, and the Western Pacific Region is on track to its goal.