In 2014, the WHO annual measles update was titled “Measles deaths reach record lows with fragile gains toward global elimination.” It’s safe to say that these headlines are a thing of the past since the organization had worse news this time around.
In 2018, the WHO estimates that 140,000 people died of measles worldwide, the highest number since 2013. In 2000, as many as 562,000 people were dying of the disease. This number was significantly reduced by vaccination programs.
Despite vaccines being a safe and effective way to combat the disease, fewer people and fewer children have been vaccinated in recent years, contributing to an uptick in deaths attributed to measles.
Contracting measles is normally not a major threat to the life of healthy adults and children. But the disease can become life-threatening for very young toddlers, malnourished children and any person of weak health. Fewer vaccinated people also means that measles epidemics become more widespread and can reach weaker children, as well as those unable to be vaccinated for health reasons, more easily. In 2018, most of those dying of measles were under the age of five.