A federal government program launched 20 years ago to increase vaccinations for low-income children in the United States will prevent more than 700,000 deaths, but measles remains a stubborn adversary, with more than 129 cases so far this year, a federal agency said on Thursday.
Most of the U.S. measles cases are linked to unvaccinated travelers from abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
The first four months of this year have brought more measles cases than any similar period since 1996, in part because of serious outbreaks in countries such as the Philippines, the agency said. There have been no deaths from the disease reported in the United States this year, the CDC said.
The importation of measles from overseas makes vaccination even more important for children in the United States, the CDC said.
“Borders can’t stop diseases anymore, but vaccinations can,” CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters.
A national measles outbreak in the late 1980s that involved 50,000 cases and more than 100 deaths prompted the CDC to launch the Vaccines for Children program, which provides free vaccinations to children whose parents and care givers are unable to afford them.