The World Health Organization (WHO) called on European nations to step up vaccinations against the highly contagious measles virus. The measles outbreak affected 22,149 people in seven countries across the region since the start of 2014; with Kyrgyzstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Russia hit hardest. The resurgence of this preventable disease in some European countries, as well as in some parts of the United States, coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.
Many parents who do not vaccinate their children say they fear a triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella is responsible for increasing cases of autism, a theory repeatedly dis-proven by various studies. This controversy dates back to the publication of a now debunked article in the Lancet medical journal in 1998.
Even if the number of infections dropped by 50 percent from 2013-2014, the current measles epidemic has put into serious doubt the objective of eradicating the disease in Europe by the end of the year. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO's Europe director, said, "We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps. It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years' efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time."
Nedret Emiroglu, a deputy director in WHO's Europe office, said, "The priority is now to control current outbreaks in all affected countries through immunization."