Strong commitment needed to strengthen measles immunisation

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Global routine immunisation coverage for the first dose of measles has stagnated in the last five years

Geneva, 10 November 2016 - Measles remains one of the leading causes of death among children under five despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, according to new data released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, an estimated 134,000 people, mostly children, died from the disease compared to nearly 115,000 in 2014.

Moreover global routine immunisation coverage for the first dose of measles has stagnated in the last five years, plateauing at 84%-85% and in Gavi countries at 78%. The failure to vaccinate all children with two doses of the vaccine and maintain high levels of herd immunity (93%–95%) has resulted in an increased number of measles outbreaks.

“Globally more than 20 million children are still not vaccinated against measles,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Countries need strong routine immunisation services, efficient measles surveillance activities and resources for strengthening health systems if they are to better control measles and meet elimination goals.”

Last December, the Gavi board approved a new package of support for measles and rubella immunisation. Gavi’s new strategy will contribute to helping countries approach measles in a comprehensive manner and contribute towards saving more than a million lives in Gavi-supported countries.

“Measles is a key indicator of the strength of a country’s immunisation systems and, all too often, it ends up being the canary in the coalmine with outbreaks acting as the first warning of deeper problems,” added Dr Seth Berkley. “Although measles vaccination has saved millions of lives, progress is too slow. To adress one of the world’s most deadly vaccine-preventable childhood killers we need strong commitments from countries and partners to boost routine immunisation coverage and to strengthen surveillance systems.”

 

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