February 8, 2012 | Press Release

NGOs, multilateral organizations, decision makers and global health experts will address Rubella elimination and CRS prevention in Europe

ROME, Italy—February 8, 2012—This week, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, together with the March of Dimes Foundation, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe), the International Pediatric Association and its regional affiliate, the European Pediatric Association and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will bring together experts from around the world to discuss the continued outbreaks of measles and rubella in the European region. The meeting will also focus on the impact of associated congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) and the pressing need to increase regional measles and rubella vaccine coverage to ensure immunity among susceptible populations.

The Progress Toward Rubella Elimination and CRS Prevention in Europe meeting will take place in Rome, Italy from February 8-10, 2012, and will include presentations about the clinical features, epidemiology, diagnosis and control of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, and will emphasize how simultaneous control of measles is essential to the control of rubella. Leaders will discuss rubella vaccine case studies and lessons learned in regions that have successfully reached measles and rubella elimination goals.

“This meeting is a great opportunity, bringing the global health leaders together to discuss the growing problem of measles outbreaks and the continuous high incidence of rubella in the European Region,” said Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Deputy Director of Communicable Diseases at the Regional Office of WHO for Europe.

“We have made great strides in eliminating these diseases in the Americas and we must work together to discover why we are seeing these cases re-emerge in Europe and what can be done to stop the outbreaks,” added Dr. Ciro de Quadros, Executive Vice President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Rubella, also known as the German measles, is a viral disease characterized by a low-grade fever and rash. While rubella infections are relatively benign in adults, they can cause severe birth defects, if contracted by women in the early months of pregnancy, a condition known as CRS.

An estimated 112,000 cases of CRS occur each year globally. Large-scale rubella vaccination during the last decade has drastically reduced or nearly eliminated rubella and CRS in many high resource and in some low resource countries, the Americas and in Scandinavia. However, the WHO estimates that only 41 percent of children globally receive the rubella vaccine, making rubella and CRS a continued threat in many parts of the world.

“Pediatricians see the misery resulting from incomplete immunization,” said Andreas Constantopoulos, President of the European Pediatric Association and President-elect of the International Pediatric Association. “This meeting will strengthen the partnership between our national pediatrics societies and our colleagues in public health, industry and civil society. Bringing us together to focus on lessons learned among those countries already successful in reaching the goal of measles and rubella elimination will help us to reach the WHO/Europe goal by 2015.”

Since measles and rubella vaccines are now routinely given as a combined dose, success in eliminating measles will also result in elimination of rubella and CRS.

“It wasn’t that long ago that millions of people suffered from rubella each year and congenital rubella syndrome was a leading cause of birth defects like deafness and mental retardation,” says Dr. Stanley Plotkin, of University of Pennsylvania, who was inspired to produce the first rubella vaccine after witnessing the global rubella pandemic from 1962-1965. “The rubella vaccine made a major dent in the global rubella burden, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to increase global rubella immunization and finally eliminate rubella from Europe and the rest of the world.”

To learn more about the Progress Toward Rubella Elimination and CRS Prevention in Europe meeting please visit www.sabin.org.


About Sabin Vaccine Institute

Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world's most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat, and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines, and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.

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