Anti-vaxxers blamed for rise in measles cases worldwide

Measles is making a big comeback worldwide because people, especially in the West, are failing to get themselves vaccinated.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control said 110,000 people died of measles last year worldwide.

Overall cases were up 30 percent, driven by massive jumps in North America and Europe. The only region which saw cases fall was the Western Pacific.

"The resurgence of measles is of serious concern, with extended outbreaks occurring across regions, and particularly in countries that had achieved, or were close to achieving measles elimination," said the WHO's Dr Soumya Swaminathan.

"Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under or unimmunised children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease."

Two doses of a vaccine is all it takes, but worldwide, only 85 percent get the first dose and 67 percent the second. In New Zealand, where measles has been effectively eradicated, coverage is above 90 percent. 

About 95 percent is needed for herd immunity, so people who can't get the vaccine - those with weak immune systems, babies and cancer patients for example - are protected.

"Complacency about the disease and the spread of falsehoods about the vaccine in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela and pockets of fragility and low immunisation coverage in Africa are combining to bring about a global resurgence of measles after years of progress," said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance.

There are still outbreaks in New Zealand from time to time, usually from people who've arrived from overseas.

WHO estimates 21 million lives have been saved since 2000 thanks to the MMR vaccine.