Closing Immunity Gaps in Measles and Rubella Elimination
In 2014, 115,000 children died from Measles. That’s 13 children every hour, mostly under 5 years old, losing their lives to a vaccine-preventable disease. Rubella is generally a mild disease, but when pregnant women become infected, their child is at risk of Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), which can result in physical and mental birth defects. An estimated 100,000 children are born with CRS worldwide each year, even though rubella and CRS can both be prevented by vaccines.
All six World Health Organization (WHO) regions have measles elimination goals and three have also developed rubella elimination goals. While the 2014 Assessment Report of the Global Vaccine Action Plan revealed that most regions were off track in their work towards these elimination goals, the Pan American Health Organization verified they had met their Rubella elimination goal in 2015. Rubella and CRS have been eliminated in the Americas.
While many countries are succeeding in the strengthening of their routine immunization programs, over half of the world’s children are not vaccinated against rubella. Progress is being stifled by a number of hurdles, especially outbreaks, revealing a new challenge of vaccinating older children and adults. The consequences of the devastating outcomes of congenital rubella syndrome are obvious and provide an urgent call for action.
To that end, from May 10-11, 2016, 46 representatives from 23 countries gathered in Siena, Italy, to identify challenges and best practices for achieving high vaccination coverage among older children and adults. Attendees included measles and rubella focal points from national immunization programs, representatives from the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the WHO and its regional offices as well as civil society leaders from various international pediatric associations and Lions Club chapters.
The cornerstone of the agenda was sharing experiences and exchanging ideas on strategies and tactical measures to close immunity gaps in these age groups from a country-based perspective. Presentations revealed unique approaches to maintaining high routine coverage, such as Australia’s “No Jab, No Pay” law as well as experiences with campaigns when dealing with high influx of migrants or refugees. Discussions and group exercises focused on methods for obtaining high-quality data coverage in all age groups, identifying areas and groups at risk, and implementing effective actions when gaps in immunity are identified.
A coalition of partners supported the meeting, including; American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), CDC, International Pediatric Association (IPA), Lions Clubs International Foundation, Sabin Vaccine Institute, and the WHO.
Presentations from the meeting can be found here.
A meeting report can be found here.