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COVID is killed more than 50,000 people in the UK, and has infected almost 55 million people worldwide. Hopes for a coronavirus vaccine are growing stronger, but scientists have now warned that we may be at risk of further global measles outbreaks in 2021.
A number of potential coronavirus vaccines are entering the final stages of clinical trials.
US company Moderna has revealed that its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 94 percent effective.
Elsewhere, Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine was last week revealed to be at least 90 percent effective.
But, the end of the global pandemic will almost certainly spark a rise in childhood measles cases, experts have warned.
Coronavirus lockdown measures have put a pause on a number of childhood vaccination programmes.
The World Health Organization estimates that 94 million children missed their schedule measles vaccination doses in 26 countries during the pandemic, up until the of October.
That means there will be rising numbers of susceptible children; many of which will be living in poorer, remote communities, warned experts at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne.
Measles is likely to return in 2021 in a similar way that was common decades ago, along with a higher mortality rate.
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“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on global immunisation and control of vaccine-preventable diseases,” the researchers wrote in The Lancet.
“Surveillance data from the first 6 months of 2020 suggest that measles case numbers are down in most countries, but this decline is ominous rather than reassuring, portending future outbreaks.
“The coming months are likely to see increasing numbers of unimmunised children who are susceptible to measles, many living in poor, remote communities where health systems are less resilient, and malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are increasing.
“All these factors are likely to increase measles case fatality ratios, creating the environment for measles to return in 2021, accompanied by increased mortality and the serious consequences of measles that were common decades ago.”
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness – just like the coronavirus.
The infection can be very unpleasant, and it many even lead to life-threatening complications, warned the NHS.
The most common symptoms of measles include having small, greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks, as well as a high fever, and cold-like symptoms.
Some patients may even have sore, red eyes that are unusually sensitive to light.
You should speak to a doctor straight away if you think that you, or your child, has measles.
But you could protect against measles by having the MMR vaccine, which also immunises against mumps and rubella.
The vaccine is given in two doses, and is part of the NHS childhood vaccination program.
You can receive the measles vaccine at any age, and you should speak to your GP if you’re not sure whether you’re immunised against the virus.
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