Measles could kill more kids than COVID this year. Why?

June 16, 2020
Before we take a deep dive into a story from yesterday about vaccines for preventable diseases, we want to celebrate yesterday's historic Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination. In its decision, the court ruled that gay and…

Before we take a deep dive into a story from yesterday about vaccines for preventable diseases, we want to celebrate yesterday's historic Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination. In its decision, the court ruled that gay and transgender individuals are protected against discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“As the fight against social injustice continues in communities across the country, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ protections came as a sliver of good news," said BIO's President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath. "BIO celebrates the court’s ruling especially in a month where pride and love for oneself should reign supreme. And BIO will continue fighting to ensure everyone has access to care, even in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to roll back healthcare protections for transgender individuals.

"The biotech community would not be what it is today without its diverse set of scientists, researchers, medical professionals, and employees, which bring invaluable experiences, perspectives, and voices in the fight to feed, fuel and heal for all.”

For more information on BIO's campaign to accelerate gender, racial, ethnic, and LGBTQ representation on biotech company boards, in C-suites and in leadership positions, visit

Now, here are around 650 words (3 minutes) on why we’re seeing a drastic decline in vaccination rates around the world (including the United States) and what we can do about it.

Measles could kill more kids than COVID this year. Why?

As people around the world are locked down and resources are diverted to coronavirus response, we’re seeing “fresh explosions of illness and death from other diseases—ones that are readily prevented by vaccines,” says The New York Times in a detailed, must-read report.

Around the world, we’re seeing surges in preventable illnesses—including diphtheria, cholera, measles, tuberculosis, even poliovirus in dozens of countries, explains The New York Times.

“178 million people are at risk of missing measles shots in 2020,” as vaccine campaigns around the world are halted, transportation networks are shut down, and available supplies and health care workers are diverted to the COVID-19 response. 

And the current measles epidemic could potentially “kill more children than COVID,” said Chibuzo Okonta, President of Doctors Without Borders in West and Central Africa.

This is a problem in the United States, too. Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations dropped 50% during the week of April 5, the height of the pandemic in the United States, primarily due to people missing routine check-ups, explained an earlier report.

But U.S. vaccination rates were falling even before COVID-19—and the United States almost lost its measles elimination status in 2019 as parents increasingly choose to not vaccinate their children. 

And alarmingly, even in the midst of a pandemic, “vaccine hesitancy” is on the rise. New data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found 1 in 8 U.S. parents are concerned about vaccine safety, while 1 in 4 are “hesitant about influenza vaccine”—stats that make us seriously concerned about what this means for utilization of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The bottom line: Children need to be protected against these preventable diseases, pandemic or not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AAP recommend every child continues to receive routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Phyllis’ Philosophy: The biopharma industry is working hard to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s equally important to keep up with vaccinations against other deadly but preventable diseases—some of which, like measles, are even more contagious and deadly for children. There is an urgent need for everyone to catch up on missed routine immunizations—babies, kids, adolescents, and adults. At the same time, we must continue to dispel mistruths about vaccines and remind the public that they’re safe and effective. At the end of the day, vaccines are amazing tools to advance public health—but only if people get them. – Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics Policy

More Health Care News:

NIH: NIH launches analytics platform to harness nationwide COVID-19 patient data to speed treatments
“The initiative will create an analytics platform to systematically collect clinical, laboratory and diagnostic data from health care provider organizations nationwide. It will then harmonize the aggregated information into a standard format and make it available rapidly for researchers and health care providers to accelerate COVID-19 research and provide information that may improve clinical care.”

STAT News: Cancer patients and their doctors carry on with clinical trials during COVID-19
“Some medical centers put certain research trials on hold, stretched too thin by the needs of treating COVID-19 patients. Others continued their cancer trials by taking advantage of NCI-modified protocols allowing patient consent by phone or delivery of oral drugs to patients’ homes.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Tuesday: He’s expected to sign an executive order on police reform, which will create “a national database of police misconduct,” “urge social workers and mental health professionals to work more closely alongside frontline officers,” and “offer guidelines for new training and credentialing for police officers on de-escalating tense situations and the best times to use force,” reports POLITICO. And perhaps of interest to the biofuels sector, Vice President Pence is visiting Iowa today, and his agenda includes lunch with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are both in session. Meanwhile, Axios has insight on what the Supreme Court's landmark ruling protecting LGBT employees from discrimination means for health care.

On Deck This Week: 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 10:00 A.M. Via WebEx| Ways and Means Hearing: The 2020 Trade Policy Agenda, witness U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 10:00 A.M. 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building| U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions – Telehealth: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 11:30 A.M. Via WebEx| Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing: Health Care Inequality: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 and the Health Care System, witnesses: Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH, Pediatrician and Child Health Advocate - Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Oliver T. Brooks, MD, President National Medical Association and Avik S. A. Roy, President, The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 1:00 P.M. Via WebEx| The Committee on Small Business hearing, “Paycheck Protection Program: Loan Forgiveness and Other Challenges.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 3:00 P.M. G-50 Dirksen| Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine the President’s 2020 trade policy agenda, witness U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

Thursday, June 18, 2020 at 12 P.M. Via WebEx| House Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee Hearing “Tax Relief to Support Workers and Families during the COVID-19 Recession”

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