Measles Has Been Eradicated in the Americas, So Let’s Have a Round of Applause for Vaccines

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(Via Giphy)

This week the World Health Organization made a major announcement in Washington, D.C.,: The Americas have been declared officially free of endemic measles. Three cheers for vaccines!

It is true that people are still getting measles in the Americas, but those have been cases of imported measles strains. According to the New York Times, the last case of endemic–ie: non-imported–measles in the Americas was recorded in 2002 in Venezuela.

The Americas are the first region to be certified as free of endemic measles from the World Health Organization and thePan American Health Organization, and the PAHO described the certification process as “really hard.”

According to IFLS, measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eradicated from the Americas. It joins smallpox, polio, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the pile of things we are glad to see the back of, thanks to vaccines.

“This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world,” PAHO/WHO Director Carissa Etienne said at the announcement on Tuesday. “It is proof of the remarkable success that can be achieved when countries work together in solidarity towards a common goal. It is the result of a commitment made more than two decades ago, in 1994, when the countries of the Americas pledged to end measles circulation by the turn of the 21st century.”

Ending endemic measles in the Americas has been achieved thanks to vaccines, and vaccines will be responsible if the WHO achieves its goal of eradicating measles everywhere except Southeast Asia by 2020.

Vaccines have been enormously successful. IFLS reports that around 1980, 2.6 million people died of measles every year. That was before mass vaccinations. Now most children are vaccinated as babies, and in 2013, 146,000 died of measles. That’s a pretty amazing improvement–thanks vaccines!–and it’s getting even better, so long as we can continue to make improvements towards getting vaccines to poor people and people in remote or hard-to-reach areas, and so long as we can prevent people from deciding not to vaccinate their kids because they think Jenny McCarthy has a medical degree.

(Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines do not cause autism.)

The eradication of endemic measles in the Americas is an awesome announcement. Way to go, science!