Experts release new global strategy to defeat measles, rubella outbreaks

“Measles continues to kill children around the world and rubella is the leading infectious cause of congenital malformations in newborn infants. These are avoidable tragedies,” says Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director in a teleconference with the Measles and Rubella (MR) Initiative experts last April 24, 2012.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children despite the availability of a safe and cost-efficient vaccine. In 2010, an estimated 139,300 people, mostly under the age of five, died from measles and almost 95 percent deaths happen in countries with poor health systems.

From 2001 to 2011, intensive vaccination programs were implemented reaching one billion children aged 9 months to 14 years old. The accelerated immunization activities caused a 74 percent drop in global measles deaths from estimated 535, 300 deaths in 2000 to 139,300 in 2010.

“A three-quarters drop in measles deaths worldwide shows just how effective well-run vaccination programs can be. Now, we need to take the next logical step and vaccinate children against rubella, too,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

The MR Initiative presented a new Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2020. By the end of 2015, the Plan intends to reduce global measles deaths by at least 95 percent and in 2020, it hopes to eliminate measles and rubella in at least five WHO regions.

The strategy focuses on the implementation of five core components: 1) high vaccination coverage with two doses of measles- and rubella- containing vaccines; 2) disease monitoring and evaluation using effective surveillance and programmatic efforts to ensure progress and positive impact of vaccination activities; 3) outbreak preparedness and case management; 4) community engagement; and 5) research and development to support cost-effective action and improve vaccination and diagnostic tools.  

“This new plan outlines proven effective strategies. It is time to partner with key countries to implement the plan in order to save our children from these terrible diseases,” said Dr. Frieden.