SYDNEY, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Major measles outbreaks will likely occur in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as early as 2021 due to missed vaccinations, an Australian medical institute report warned Tuesday.
Many children in the developing world missed out on measles vaccinations in 2020 as a result of disruptions caused by the pandemic, according to the report from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI).
Estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest by the end of October 2020, 94 million children in 26 countries and regions had missed out on receiving scheduled measles vaccine doses.
Compounding the issue are the economic impacts of COVID-19 leading to higher rates of malnutrition, a condition which increases the severity of measles infections.
"All these factors create the environment for severe measles outbreaks in 2021, accompanied by increased death rates and the serious consequences of measles that were common decades ago," lead author Professor Kim Mulholland said.
"Children who die from measles are often malnourished, but acute measles pushes many surviving children into malnutrition."
Malnutrition, along with measles-associated immune suppression, can lead to delayed mortality, while co-existing vitamin A deficiency can also lead to measles-associated blindness.
WHO figures indicate that there were 9.8 million cases of measles and 207,000 deaths in 2019, the largest increase in the past 20 years.
Mulholland, who is also chair of the World Health Organization's SAGE Working Group on measles and rubella vaccines, said the issue persisted despite measles vaccinations being a cheap and effective solution.
He identified three key steps which could be taken to immediately mitigate the effects of impending outbreaks.
They are to reach unimmunised children through catch-up vaccination campaigns, prepare countries to cope with expected outbreaks, and to maintain targets to eliminate measles and rubella all together.
"Without concerted efforts now, it is likely that the coming years will see an increase in measles and its severe, frequently fatal, complications," Mulholland said.