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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Fall in measle death rates
Vaccination programmes have dramatically cut the global child death toll from measles, experts say.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization show deaths fell to 777,000 in 2000 - 11% down on the previous year.

They say the fall is largely due to improved vaccination programmes in Latin America and southern Africa.

The WHO wants to cut the number of measles deaths to 437,500 a year by 2005.

The reason these deaths were occurring was because of under-vaccination of children
Dr Peter Strebel, CDC

Developed countries have largely eradicated deaths from measles through vaccination campaigns.

In the UK, the latest provisional figures, for 1999, show just two children died from the condition.

But it remains a significant problem for many parts of the developing world, where virtually all deaths from measles occur.

Over half of all deaths from measles occur in Africa. The conditions remains the fifth leading cause of death in children under five.

'15% missed'

The WHO figures were published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Peter Strebel, chief of the global measles branch in the CDC's national immunisation programme, said the decline was due to better vaccination programmes in Africa and other regions with traditionally low coverage.

He said: "The reason these deaths were occurring was because of under-vaccination of children."

The WHO does says whether a single measles vaccine or the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is used is up to individual countries.

But it says children should receive two rounds of measles vaccinations so that those who missed the first jab or did not develop immunity, around 15%, will be covered.

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