If there’s one thing that most of us will remember from our childhood days, it’s getting vaccinated.
Of course, getting poked and prodded with needles might not be the best experience for most of us. Still, most Singaporeans probably recognise these vaccinations as a necessary evil to protect us from contracting all sorts of diseases.
And boy, are these vaccinations necessary, for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently emerged with a warning that multiple regions might see a measles outbreak soon. (Yup, because dealing with COVID-19 isn’t enough.)
Here’s all you need to know about what might be in store for us soon and what this means for Singapore.
Measles: What is It?
Measles, a condition which impacts the respiratory system and causes rashes on one’s skin, is considered one of the most contagious viral infections on earth.
It has different symptoms, such as high fever, a cough, conjunctivitis and Koplik’s spots.
It also has an incubation period of anywhere between eight to 14 days and can be spread through respiratory means, such as direct contact with a patient’s respiratory droplets and nasal or throat secretions.
In rare cases, one may get infected after being in contact with items exposed to the secretions mentioned above.
Even though most patients tend to recover fully after seeking treatment, it can be deadly in some cases.
The condition is also known as rubeola, and the most efficient prevention method is getting vaccinated.
According to WHO, communities need to ensure that at least 95% of their population is fully vaccinated (i.e. two doses of the vaccine) for the community to attain herd immunity.
Current Measles Situation in the World
However, despite the importance of measles vaccinations, WHO noted that the vaccination rates for measles have decreased recently, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Instead of the 95% mentioned earlier, only 81% of children across the globe have had one dose of the measles vaccine, and just 71% of children have completed their vaccinations against measles.
In particular, almost 40 million children were not vaccinated against measles last year (2021). 25 million children did not receive their first dose of the vaccine, and the number of children who have missed their second dose is an additional 14.7 million.
These values are the lowest they have been since 2008, although WHO also recognised that these low vaccination rates might be due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In turn, this has caused the number of measles cases and the possibility of a measles breakout to increase worldwide.
WHO estimates around nine million measles cases last year, with 128,000 cases resulting in death. Additionally, there were “large and disruptive outbreaks” in 22 countries last year.
Other factors, such as a fall in “measles surveillance” and “persistent large outbreaks” this year, have also increased the threat that measles poses to the world.
Singapore’s Measles Cases
Moving onto Singapore, here’s something to be thankful for: The number of measles cases in Singapore is relatively lower than that of the entire world.
MOH’s website recorded three measles cases this year, one being an imported case.
When speaking to The Straits Times, MOH also emphasised that most of the population in Singapore is primarily immune to measles, making it unlikely for our country to see a large-scale measles outbreak.
But as they always say, low harm doesn’t mean no harm.
Last month, three Australian passengers from the same family were found to have measles after taking a Qantas Airways from Singapore to Melbourne, triggering a scare amongst fellow passengers.
Singapore’s Measles Vaccination Rate
As most of us know, getting vaccinated against measles, just like vaccinations for other viral infections, is compulsory for all children who live in Singapore.
The vaccination against measles is part of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccination, and the health ministry highly recommends that parents make sure that their children complete their two MMR vaccination on time.
Apart from that, adults are also encouraged to get vaccinated if they may be prone to contracting the virus. Individuals are vulnerable to measles infection if they have not completed the MMR vaccination scheme (i.e. have yet to receive two doses). Adults who have not contracted measles before are also susceptible to the disease.
Regarding Singapore’s vaccination rate, MOH revealed that records from 2011 to 2021 show that more than 95% of the population have received their first dose of the vaccine, while around 90% of individuals have received both doses.
Hence, it is unlikely that a large measles outbreak in Singapore will occur despite WHO’s warning.
Virus Still Exists in Every Region in the World
WHO and CDC also highlighted that there are no regions in the world that have been able to eradicate measles for an extended period successfully.
Ten countries that once were able to eliminate measles have since seen outbreaks since 2016 as well.
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Featured Image: Design_Cells / Shutterstock + World Health Organisation
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