New research from UNICEF has revealed the alarming number of Canadian children who have not received the measles vaccine.

According to the report, 287,000 Canadian children born between 2010 and 2017 went unvaccinated for measles, the seventh-highest among high-income countries. The United States tops the list with nearly 2.6 million unvaccinated children during the same time period, followed by France (608,000), the U.K. (527,000), Argentina (430,000), Italy (435,000) and Japan (374,000).

“The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a news release. “The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”

Measles outbreaks have seen a particular surge across the globe in 2019. So far this year, there have been 110,000 cases reported worldwide, a 300-per-cent increase from a year ago.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there have 39 confirmed cases of the measles in Canada this year, with reports in British Columbia, Quebec, the Northwest Territories, Ontario and Alberta.

Typically, two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine are required to prevent a child from contracting either disease. The first is typically administered when the child turns one year of age, while the second should be given when the child is between the ages of four and six, according to ImmunizeBC.

The World Health Organization recommends 95 per cent of people to be vaccinated to prevent a disease from spreading, but UNICEF says just 85 per cent of children worldwide received the first measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, amounting to 21.1 million unvaccinated children annually.

The organization adds just 67 per cent of children around the globe received the second vaccine. They attributes these numbers to a lack of access to the drug, poor health care systems, complacency and the anti-vaccine movement.

“Measles is far too contagious,” Fore said. “It is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone.”


This story has been updated to reflect that the Public Health Agency of Canada releases weekly updates on measles and not Health Canada as was previously reported.