The impact of a prolonged ebola outbreak on measles elimination activities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, 2014-2015

Pan Afr Med J. 2020 Jan 6;35(Suppl 1):8. doi: 10.11604/pamj.supp.2020.35.1.19059. eCollection 2020.


Introduction: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have attained significant reduction in measles incidence between 2004 and 2013. The Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015 in West Africa caused significant disruption of the health service delivery in the three worst affected countries. The magnitude of the impact on the immunization program has not been well documented.

Methods: We reviewed national routine immunization administrative coverage data as well as measles surveillance performance and measles epidemiology in the years before, during and after the EVD outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone.

Results: Both Liberia and Guinea experienced a sharp decline of more than 25% in the monthly number of children vaccinated against measles in 2014 and 2015 as compared to the previous years, while there was no reported decline in Sierra Leone. Guinea and Liberia experienced a decline in measles surveillance activity and performance indicators in 2014 and 2015. During this period, there was an increase in measles incidence and a decline in the mean age of measles cases reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Guinea started reporting high measles incidence in 2016. All three countries organized measles supplemental immunization activities by June 2015. Liberia achieved 99% administrative coverage, while Guinea and Sierra Leone attained 90.6% and 97.2% coverage respectively. There were no severe adverse events reported during these mass vaccination activities. The disruptive effect of the Ebola outbreak on immunization services was especially evident in Guinea and Liberia. Our review of the reported administrative vaccination coverage at national level does not show significant decline in measles first dose vaccination coverage in Sierra Leone as compared to other reports. This may be due to inaccuracies in coverage monitoring and data quality problems. The increases in measles transmission and incidence in these three countries can be explained by the rapid accumulation of susceptible children. Despite the organization of mass vaccination activities, measles incidence through 2017 has remained higher than the pre-Ebola period in all three countries.

Conclusion: The Ebola outbreak in West Africa significantly affected measles vaccination coverage rates in two of the three worst affected countries, and led to persistent gaps in coverage, along with high measles incidence that was documented until two years after the end of the Ebola outbreak. Liberia and Sierra Leone have demonstrated coverage improvements after the end of the Ebola outbreak.

Keywords: Ebola; Guinea; Liberia; Sierra Leone; West Africa; coverage; measles; outbreak; vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Disease Eradication / methods
  • Disease Eradication / organization & administration*
  • Disease Eradication / standards
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Guinea / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / organization & administration*
  • Immunization Programs / standards
  • Immunization Programs / statistics & numerical data
  • Infant
  • Liberia / epidemiology
  • Mass Vaccination / organization & administration
  • Mass Vaccination / standards
  • Mass Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Measles / epidemiology
  • Measles / prevention & control*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sierra Leone / epidemiology
  • Vaccination Coverage / organization & administration
  • Vaccination Coverage / standards
  • Vaccination Coverage / statistics & numerical data*