Global partners launch new plan to control and eliminate measles and rubella

Joint News Release American Red Cross/CDC/UN Foundation/UNICEF/WHO

24 APRIL 2012 | ATLANTA | GENEVA | NEW YORK | WASHINGTON, D.C ― Partners leading efforts to control measles have announced a new global strategy aimed at reducing measles deaths and congenital rubella syndrome to zero. The announcement comes with the publication of new data using a state-of-the-art methodology showing that accelerated efforts to reduce measles deaths have resulted in a 74% reduction in global measles mortality, from an estimated 535 300 deaths in 2000 to 139 300 in 2010.

Vaccination has been key to this progress. Through increased routine immunization coverage and large-scale immunization campaigns, sub-Saharan Africa made the most progress with an 85% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2010, according to a new study published in today’s Lancet.

Since 2001, the Measles Initiative has supported developing countries to vaccinate over 1 billion children against measles. Now, in keeping with the new Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan to control and eventually eliminate measles and rubella, the Initiative is called the Measles & Rubella Initiative. Measles and rubella elimination naturally go hand-in-hand, as measles and rubella vaccines are routinely combined in a single shot.

The new data underscores that progress in reducing measles deaths was especially strong from 2001 to 2008. However, when investment and political commitment to measles control faltered in 2008 and 2009, many children were not immunized. Measles came roaring back and caused large outbreaks in Africa, Asia, Eastern Mediterranean and Europe. In 2010, an estimated 19 million infants ― mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia ― did not receive measles vaccine.

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