The World Health Organisation has stripped Albania of its ‘measles-free’ status after a spike in reported cases was observed.
Albania along with Greece, Czech Republic, and the UK have noted a big increase in reported cases of the preventable disease, resulting in the disease no longer being considered eliminated in those countries. The WHO has called on the four nations to step up their vaccination efforts.
Albania reported a total of 1466 cases in 2018 and 475 cases during the first half of 2019. Greece reported 2193 cases and 28 cases during the same period. Czech Republic and the UK had less instances of measles, but still enough to be considered concerning by the WHO>
Throughout 53 European countries, some 90,000 measles cases were reported this year alone, already more than in the whole of 2018.
Kate O’Brien, Director of the WHO Immunisation Department said “Each of these countries are examples that have extremely high national vaccination coverage. So these are not examples of countries that have particularly weak systems.”
“This is the alarm bell that is ringing around the world: being able to achieve high national coverage is not enough, it has to be achieved in every community, and every family for every child,” she added.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can kill or disable children. Its spread and contraction can be easily prevented by a vaccine given between 12-15 months and a booster at around four years old. The measles vaccine is available for free throughout Albania and the vaccines are provided by the WHO.
Vaccination is important because not everyone can have the vaccination, therefore not vaccinating a child can put other peoples lives in danger, not just that child’s. For example, newborn babies, immunocompromised, and elderly individuals are at particular risk of serious complications or death from the disease as they are not able to be vaccinated.
Vaccine numbers have dropped due to the “anti-vax” movement which spreads false information and unscientific speculation, dressed up as facts, stating that vaccines cause all manner of compilations, including autism. This movement began after a doctor made false claims that the measles vaccine caused autism- he later retracted this statement admitting it was false, and then lost his medical license. His claims have been widely debunked by scientists, immunologists, and disease experts all over the world.
Unfortunately, some choose to believe the false information and choose not to vaccinate their children. This decreases the vaccination rate, erodes herd immunity, and endangers those around them.
“Misinformation about vaccines is as contagious and dangerous as the diseases it helps to spread,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement this week.
Another WHO spokesperson, Gunter Pfaff said; “If high immunisation coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die.”
Measles caused some 109,000 deaths in 2017 alone, most of which could have been preventable if they had been vaccinated.