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African measles deaths from vaccination gap

Amid all the debate in the United States about whether vaccines are safe, people sometimes lose sight of what happens when children miss their measles shots. A failure to provide widespread immunizations for this disease in eastern and southern Africa over the past year is a painful reminder of the results of such lapses. According to a brief item posted today by the International Society for Infectious Diseases,

A steep increase in cases of measles in eastern and southern Africa
has put recent gains in reducing mortality due to this highly
contagious disease at risk of being reversed. As of mid-June 2010,
the outbreak has affected more than 47,907 children in 14 countries,
resulting in 731 deaths. The most recent confirmed measles outbreaks
were reported from Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

The outbreak is attributed to failure to achieve sufficient vaccination coverage due to lack of funding for immunization from governments and other partners to the anti-measles initiative conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The outbreak is also the result of certain groups refusing to be vaccinated. UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Elhadj As Sy, said:

Measles IS easily preventable. In order to sustain our efforts and
successes in combating the disease, we urgently need to fill the
funding gaps. Otherwise, we will again see more measles deaths in the
near future.

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