Poliomyelitis and Measles

The information here is provided by courtesy of the Network's short online course - "An Introduction to Global Health". 


Poliomyelitis (Polio) has been around for centuries and is an infectious disease contracted mainly by children that can lead to permanent paralysis of muscles in various parts of the body with lifelong disability. Sometimes it causes death. Epidemics occurred in the 1900s and outbreaks became severe and widespread.


Vaccines were developed in the 1950s that, in richer countries, lead to the elimination of the disease. But large outbreaks continued in poorer parts of the world. WHO mounted a “Global Eradication Initiative” in 1988 and the number of paralytic cases have been reduced by 99.99%.  (Figure 1) 


Figure 1




Complete elimination is almost in sight, but is hampered by misinformation and civil unrest that interrupts the eradication campaign.


Further reading 


Our World in Data   



WHO : General polio information    





WHO Eradication Programme  



WHO Vaccines 






The problem 


  • Measles is highly contagious and its seriousness is underestimated by many people. In 2018 more than 140,000 people died from measles, most of whom were children under 5.
  • More than 95% of measles death occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.
  • Severe measles is more likely among poorly  nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A or whose immune systems are weakened by e.g. HIV/AIDS.


The solution 


  • Measles vaccination is highly effective and usually combined with immunisations against mumps and rubella.
  • Vaccination prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths between 2000 – 2018 (a 73% drop%)
  • By the end of 2019, 85% of children had received one dose of measles-containing vaccine by their second birthday. 178 countries had included a second dose as part of routine immunization and 71% of children received two doses of measles vaccine according to national immunization schedules.
  • Under the WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles and rubella are targeted for elimination in five WHP regions by 2020, a programme for which WHO is taking the lead.


Further reading 


WHO : Measles    



WHO : Measles Factsheet   



WHO : 2018 assessment report of the Global Vaccine Action Plan



Measles and Rubella Initiative    





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