The number of deaths from measles fell by about three-quarters over the last decade, according to a new study conducted by the World Health Organization.
The study, published in the journal Lancet, found that while measles deaths plummeted by 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, progress did not meet the WHO target of 90 percent reduction in measles mortality by 2010.
In 2000 the WHO estimated that there were 535,300 deaths from measles and fell to 139,300 in 2010, according to the analysis.
The WHO said that most of the deaths were in India and Africa, which accounted for a combined total of 79 percent of all measles deaths between 2000 and 2010, offsetting the significant gains made in other parts of the world.
Health officials said that the decline in deaths from measles had been particularly strong up until 2007, but measures "faltered" in 2008 and 2009 and many children were not vaccinated, leading to outbreaks in Africa, Asia and in Europe.
Immunization is the only way to prevent measles, according to health experts. Large-scale vaccination programs worldwide "were the main driver behind the huge fall in mortality," the researchers wrote, noting more than 1 billion doses of measles vaccine were distributed over the last ten years.
However, health officials say that more needs to be done to get more people vaccinated.
The WHO, along with other international health organizations, has launched the Measles & Rubella Initiative, a new campaign to tackle the disease by combining measles and rubella vaccines into a single shot in hopes of reducing death from measles by 95 percent from 2000 by 2015.
“Recent measles outbreaks have affected children in the world unevenly, with the poorest and youngest children the most at risk of death or disability,” Anthony Lake, the executive director of the United Nations children's organization UNICEF, said in a statement released on Tuesday. “This new Strategic Plan stresses that measles and rubella vaccinations must be delivered to children deep in the poorest and hardest to reach communities.”
Lake said that there are 382 deaths from measles every day.
"Every one of them could have been saved by a vaccine," he said.
"A three-quarters drop in measles deaths worldwide shows just how effective well-run vaccination programs can be," Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, said in a statement. "Now we need to take the next logical step and vaccinate children against rubella, too."