Measles cases in India have dropped significantly by a whopping 43 percent between 2015 and 2016 for the first time and are expected to dramatically fall this year too as India builds on its polio eradication campaign experience to eliminate measles by 2020, latest data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows.
India reported 17,250 measles cases in 2016, down from 30,168 in 2015. By 2018, India plans to reach 40 crore children with the measles vaccine, which is expected to considerably reduce the disease burden and help India meet its 2020 elimination target.
However, currently the country, continues to fall behind others, accounting for over 60 percent of the total measles cases in the WHO South East Asia region (SEAR) . India also accounts for a significant number of deaths from measles. Of the 1,34,200 measles death globally in 2016, the WHO South East Asia Region, comprising of 11 countries, accounted for around 54,500 deaths. Of this, around 49,200 occurred in India—nearly 36 percent of the global deaths from measles and rubella.
While experts blame India's demographics and misinformation about use of vaccines for the poor vaccination coverage, the country has ramped up its measles immunisation coverage to 88 percent in 2016 and is now hopeful on building on that to achieve the elimination target. "We are adopting a two pronged strategy for measles elimination. Firstly, we will attack by intensifying the coverage of measles rubella vaccine by building on the existing coverage which will reduce the transmission. Secondly, we will ramp up coverage to take care of the new cases," health secretary C K Mishra, representing India in the meeting, told TOI.
While measles vaccine was already part of the government's universal immunization program, this year the health ministry also introduced a new combined vaccine for measles and rubella. – TOI