Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routine measles immunisation and supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs) in most countries including Kenya. We assessed the risk of measles outbreaks during the pandemic in Kenya as a case study for the African Region.
Methods: Combining measles serological data, local contact patterns, and vaccination coverage into a cohort model, we predicted the age-adjusted population immunity in Kenya and estimated the probability of outbreaks when contact-reducing COVID-19 interventions are lifted. We considered various scenarios for reduced measles vaccination coverage from April 2020.
Results: In February 2020, when a scheduled SIA was postponed, population immunity was close to the herd immunity threshold and the probability of a large outbreak was 34% (8-54). As the COVID-19 contact restrictions are nearly fully eased, from December 2020, the probability of a large measles outbreak will increase to 38% (19-54), 46% (30-59), and 54% (43-64) assuming a 15%, 50%, and 100% reduction in measles vaccination coverage. By December 2021, this risk increases further to 43% (25-56), 54% (43-63), and 67% (59-72) for the same coverage scenarios respectively. However, the increased risk of a measles outbreak following the lifting of all restrictions can be overcome by conducting a SIA with ≥ 95% coverage in under-fives.
Conclusion: While contact restrictions sufficient for SAR-CoV-2 control temporarily reduce measles transmissibility and the risk of an outbreak from a measles immunity gap, this risk rises rapidly once these restrictions are lifted. Implementing delayed SIAs will be critical for prevention of measles outbreaks given the roll-back of contact restrictions in Kenya.
Mburu CN, Ojal J, Chebet R, Akech D, Karia B, Tuju J, Sigilai A, Abbas K, Jit M, Funk S, Smits G, van Gageldonk PGM, van der Klis FRM, Tabu C, Nokes DJ; LSHTM CMMID COVID-19 Working Group, Scott J, Flasche S, Adetifa I.