More than four million children will receive the measles-rubella vaccine over the next three months

UNICEF Cambodia

Source: UNICEF/Roscoka Thor

Geneva, 22 October 2013 - Cambodia’s Ministry of Health launched the biggest nationwide immunisation campaign in the country’s history to protect children against two disabling and deadly diseases – measles and rubella – with support from the GAVI Alliance.

More than four million children between the ages of nine months and 15 years will receive the combined measles-rubella (MR) vaccine over the next three months. The health ministry has taken steps to ensure that every child, particularly the hardest to reach, will be vaccinated in every village, commune and district.

GAVI has also supported Cambodia to introduce the vaccine into its routine immunisation programme, replacing the measles vaccine with MR vaccine. The vaccine will not only stop the transmission of rubella from mother to child during pregnancy, preventing children from being born with severe birth defects, but also protect children against measles, which is highly contagious.

By the end of 2013, four countries – Ghana, Cambodia, Rwanda and Senegal – will have vaccinated a total of 28 million children through MR campaigns with GAVI support. Cambodia is the first Asian country to do so.

The GAVI Alliance has provided more than US$3 million to support the MR campaign. Serum Institute of India (SII), the only supplier with a World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualified MR vaccine, provided GAVI with most of the vaccines for Cambodia free of charge.

Cambodia has received strong support from its partners in this campaign, including WHO, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation and the Latter-Day Saints Charities.

GAVI is investing more than $US 600 million in the fight against measles-rubella through large-scale catch up campaigns that aim to catalyse countries to self-finance the introduction of the vaccine into routine immunisation programmes.

With GAVI support, the combined MR vaccine will be introduced in 49 countries by 2020, vaccinating more than 700 million children. The support builds on efforts of the Measles & Rubella Initiative that have helped countries to protect 1.1 billion children against measles since 2001.

Measles elimination and rubella control is one of the three priority goals in the Western Pacific region, along with hepatitis B control and maintaining polio free status.

The GAVI Alliance Board will meet next month in Cambodia from 21-22 November.

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