The partners leading efforts to control measles announce a new global strategy aimed at reducing measles deaths and congenital rubella syndrome to zero.
The announcement comes with the publication of new data using a state-of-the-art methodology showing that accelerated efforts to reduce measles deaths have resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in global measles mortality, from an estimated 535 300 deaths in 2000 to 139 300 in 2010.
Vaccination has been key to this progress. Through increased routine immunization coverage and large-scale immunization campaigns, sub-Saharan Africa made the most progress with an 85 per cent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2010, according to a new study published in the Lancet.
Since 2001, the Measles Initiative has supported developing countries to vaccinate over one billion children against measles. Now, in keeping with the new Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan to control and eventually eliminate measles and rubella, the initiative is called the Measles & Rubella Initiative.
Measles and rubella elimination naturally go hand-in-hand, as measles and rubella vaccines are routinely combined in a single shot.
“A three-quarters drop in measles deaths worldwide shows just how effective well-run vaccination programmes can be,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization. “Now we need to take the next logical step and vaccinate children against rubella, too.”
The new data underscores that progress in reducing measles deaths was especially strong from 2001 to 2008. However, when investment and political commitment to measles control faltered in 2008 and 2009, many children were not immunized. Measles came roaring back and caused large outbreaks in Africa, Asia, Eastern Mediterranean and Europe. In 2010, an estimated 19 million infants – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia – did not receive measles vaccine.
These outbreaks combined with a delayed start in intensifying measles control in India, meant that the goal of 90 per cent reduction in measles mortality by end 2010 compared with 2000 levels was not met. India accounted for about 47 per cent of global measles deaths in 2010. In addition, target dates for measles elimination goals in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean and European regions had to be revised.
For the full World Health Organization news release, please click here.