UNITED NATIONS — The World Health Organization (WHO) said that measles vaccination has helped save an estimated 17.1 million lives since 2000, a spokesman told reporters here Friday.

New data released by WHO for the Measles & Rubella Initiative, showed that from 2000 to 2014, the number of measles-related deaths has decreased by 79 percent, Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing here.

Vaccination against the disease plays a key role in reducing child mortality, Haq said. “However, overall progress towards increasing global immunization coverage has recently stagnated.”

WHO warned that based on current trends of measles vaccination coverage and incidence, the 2015 global milestones and measles elimination goals set by WHO’s member states will not be achieved on time.

Although all countries include at least 1 dose of measles-containing vaccine in their routine vaccination schedule, only 122, or 63 percent of the total member states, have met the target of at least 90 percent of children vaccinated with a first dose.

Additionally, only half of the world’s children are receiving the recommended second dose of the vaccine.

In 2014, mass vaccination campaigns led by country governments with support from the Measles & Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, reached approximately 221 million children.

Twenty-nine countries supplemented their routine vaccination programmes with mass immunization campaigns, helping to reduce measles incidence in four out of six WHO regions in 2014. Overall, since 2000, these campaigns have enabled 2 billion children to receive a supplemental dose of measles vaccine.

In the African Region, cases dropped from more than 171,000 in 2013 to under 74,000 in 2014, likely due to campaigns in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria. WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean, European and the South-East Asia regions also saw decreases in measles incidence in 2014. PNA/Xinhua