The Countries with the Lowest Measles Vaccination Rates

Measles is already a hot topic in 2015, and it's not going to go away. But the resurgence of the childhood disease is not just an American problem, it's a global problem that the World Health Organization has been trying to combat on a worldwide scale since 2000.

Measles is already a hot topic in 2015, and it’s not going to go away. But the resurgence of the childhood disease is not just an American problem, it’s a global problem that the World Health Organization has been trying to combat on a worldwide scale since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2012, the WHO estimates that the total number of measles deaths worldwide decreased by 78%, from 562,000 to 122,000, according to the organization’s 2014 statistics report. The goal for the end of 2015 is that 90% of the world’s one-year-olds are fully immunized against the measles, and most nations are nearing that goal. According to WHO, 84% of the world’s one-year-olds were protected against this disease as of 2012. But there are multiple countries that are falling short of the targeted goal, whether because of poverty, difficulty of access, or cultural barriers.

While the US worries about measles outbreaks in airports, theme parks, and schools, this potentially-deadly disease is even more terrifying in several other countries. According to the latest statistics (2012) provided by WHO, the following countries with the lowest measles vaccination rates in one-year-olds:

10 (tie). South Sudan and Timor-Leste — 62% of one-year-olds vaccinated

War-torn South Sudan has only existed as a nation for a few years, but there have been tremendous strides in avoiding measles outbreaks like the one that occurred in 2013. In April of last year, the nation’s Ministry of Health partnered with UNICEF and WHO to try to get 2.1 million children vaccinated against measles, and an additional 2.4 million kids vaccinated against polio.

Young children make up nearly half of the Timor-Leste population, and since 2011, international support has poured in to try to increase the vaccination rates in the Asian nation.

9. Syrian Arab Republic — 61%

The summer of 2013 saw roughly 7,000 cases of measles in Syria. The healthcare system that had been in place has been decimated by the civil war. In 1990 and 2000, WHO estimated that one-year-old children were vaccinated at rates above 80%, but once the violence broke out, those vaccination rates plummeted.

8. Mali — 59%

According to Doctors Without Borders, one of the issues of getting children vaccinated in Mali is that much of the population is nomadic. People are often moving around every few days to find water sources for their cattle. Another challenge is the extreme heat in Mali, since vaccines often need to remain in cool temperatures before being administered in order to be effective.

6 (tie). Guinea and Haiti — 58%

Guinea is facing one health crisis after another — researchers recently said that countries that have dealt with the Ebola virus outbreaks have struggled with getting vaccines for measles and other preventable diseases to children.

“Measles is one of the first ones in the door when anything happens,” said Justin Lessler, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to Healthline, “whether it is political unrest, a crisis like Ebola, or a natural disaster that causes vaccine rates to go down.”

Haiti is also recovering from long-term political unrest as well as the earthquake that rocked the island nation a few years ago. Rebuilding infrastructure has in some cases replaced vaccination programs as a priority.

5. Vanuatu — 52%

As stated earlier, natural disasters precede measles outbreaks regularly. Vanuatu is now the focus of a large measles vaccination program by UNICEF after tropical cyclone Pam tore through the island nation earlier this year. Even before the Category 5 storm hit, Vanuatu was dealing with a March outbreak of the disease.

4. Equatorial Guinea — 51%

Equatorial Guinea was the darling of the international soccer world earlier this year when it stepped up to host the African Cup of Nations tournament. Morocco had declined to host over Ebola concerns, and the oil-rich nation stepped in to ensure the 30-year tournament would continue. Players and fans were all screened for Ebola before being able to enter the country for the tournament, but perhaps they should have also been screened for measles; despite having the second-highest GDP in Africa as well as not being affected by war or natural disaster, Equatorial Guinea’s infants are immunized only half the time.

3. Central African Republic — 49%

WHO says that, as of 2012, of every 100 children born, 13 die before their fifth birthday. The civil war happening there has disrupted access to preventative care measures, like measles vaccinations. In January 2014, WHO and the International Red Cross were able to inoculate more than 115,000 children in 3 days during a vaccination push, but much work is still to be done.

2. Somalia — 46%

The combination of malnourishment and lack of vaccination has led to some serious measles outbreaks in Somalia. While there have been plenty of international outreach programs to try to help the Somali people, the kidnapping and killing of Doctors Without Borders members several years ago has slowed the aid that is available.

1. Nigeria — 42%

Distrust of vaccines and attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram are leading factors towards the lack of vaccination of babies in Nigeria. The instability has led to shortages in vaccine availability, and attacks aimed at schools have made it more difficult for aid workers to reach children. In 2013, the nation experienced a 28-week measles outbreak, with more than 36,000 cases reported and nearly 200 deaths.

Bonus!

As of 2012, 92% of one-year-olds in the United States have been vaccinated against the measles. The U.S. hit the 90% marker in 2010, but researchers will likely keep an eye on whether progress is lost in America behind the strength of the anti-vaccine movement. For the 2012-2013 school year, the CDC reported that only 85% of Colorado kindergarteners had received a full MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination.