When the Measles & Rubella Initiative was founded in 2001, measles killed more than an estimated 500,000 children, globally. Today’s announcement that the death toll has dropped to just under 115,000 in 2014 is a remarkable feat; testament to the millions of hours put in by healthcare workers, volunteers and communities to bring 2 billion doses of measles vaccine to the world’s children.
Still though, 115,000 is a staggering number of children to lose to a disease so easily prevented. If the future depends on what we do today, then it’s time to act. To really act, not just with words or sentiment because more than 20 million kids did not receive measles vaccine last year. Measles is relentless and it will find unimmunized children whether they live in California or Kathmandu.
To act now means working harder to relieve the measles burden that is borne by a relatively small group of countries with fragile health systems. One of the ways we can act is by seizing the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of polio. Stopping measles is absolutely possible if we can capitalize on the massive infrastructure that has catapulted the polio eradication movement to its final hour.
To act now means working more closely with donors and governments to ensure that the war chest against measles is well stocked. It also means finding new pathways with key partners like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to reach higher vaccination coverage with two doses of vaccine. And it means that our local and community partnerships continue to be leveraged so that every child in every household is reached.
Lastly, acting now requires that complacency be overcome with the single-minded objective to rid the world of measles. Since 2000, more than 17 million lives have been saved due to measles vaccination. Let’s go the distance, the lives of another 115,000 kids are depending on us.