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03 October 2017

Measles no longer endemic in 79% of the WHO European Region

At its sixth meeting in June 2017, the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) has announced that, in the WHO European Region, 42 of 53 countries have interrupted endemic transmission of measles, and 37 countries have interrupted endemic transmission of rubella as of the end of 2016.

Based on 2016 reporting, the RVC have concluded:

  • Austria, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and Turkey have interrupted endemic measles transmission for at least 12 months, bringing the total of countries to 42 for the Region;
  • Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan have interrupted endemic rubella transmission for at least 12 months, bringing the total of countries to 37 for the Region.

Elimination of measles or rubella can be verified once a country has sustained interruption of endemic transmission for at least 36 months. The RVC have also verified that, as of 2016, various countries have achieved elimination status for either measles or rubella, in some cases both:

  • Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom eliminated measles;
  • the Republic of Moldova, Sweden and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia eliminated rubella;
  • Croatia, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Montenegro and Uzbekistan eliminated both measles and rubella.

Spain and United Kingdom achieved elimination status for rubella as of 2015, while the Republic of Moldova achieved elimination status for measles as of 2015 and Sweden achieved elimination status for measles as of 2014. This now brings the number of countries to have eliminated measles to 33, which is also the total for the number of countries having eliminated rubella. The Region can be verified as having eliminated measles and rubella when all 53 Member States have achieved elimination for both diseases.

The measles virus can spread wherever immunity gaps exist. Despite progress towards elimination in many countries and a record low in measles cases for the Region in 2016 (5200), over 11,000 measles cases have been reported so far this year. The largest outbreaks have taken place in the remaining endemic countries, but cases have also been reported following importation of the virus into countries that no longer have endemic transmission.

Regional coverage with the first dose of measles-containing vaccine is estimated to have gradually decreased over the last five years from 95% in 2012 to 93% in 2016. At least 95% vaccination coverage is considered necessary to protect an entire population from this highly contagious disease. In 2016, 25 Member States reported national coverage below this threshold.

The barriers to achieving and sustaining high immunization coverage include vaccine shortages, inequitable or inconvenient access to immunization services, vaccine hesitancy among parents and/or insufficiently informed health workers. Overcoming these barriers requires an all-government effort. By protecting everyone in the Region from vaccine-preventable diseases, countries contribute directly to their populations’ health and well-being, but also to a range of other global targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. [Source: WHO Media Centre, 26 September 2017. http://www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/sections/press-releases/2017/measles-no-longer-endemic-in-79-of-the-who-european-region]

Vol: 51 No: 39 Year: 2017 Page:

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