WHO warns of 'global measles epidemic' as 73 million vaccines missed

Dr David Nabarro urges parents to vaccinate their children against the 'dangerous' disease

At least 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February this year. AFP

The World Health Organisation's Special Envoy for Covid-19 gave a warning on Tuesday that the 73 million missed measles vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic have triggered a global outbreak.

"We've got really good vaccination programmes all over Europe to keep kids safe. One of them is the vaccination programme against measles, but it's been slowed down because Covid has really taken up so much of health care," Dr David Nabarro told Sky News.

Dr Nabarro put the figure at 73 million globally and suggested the shortfall is already manifesting.

"[It's] meant that this year, in the first few months there have been 17,000 cases of measles globally, whereas in the first two months of the previous years, it's usually been lower — 10,000 or less."

He described the spate as a "global measles epidemic" and said the WHO was worried "because measles can be a very dangerous disease".

However, Dr Nabarro expressed concern that Covid may have spawned a complacency among parents over other diseases and urged those tempted not to have their child vaccinated against measles to rethink.

“A lot of folk have actually thought to themselves: ‘well, with all this fuss and bother about Covid, perhaps we won’t take our kids to be immunised, and any way it’s quite difficult because doctor surgeries have been using different working arrangements’.“