Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Measles efforts to focus on strengthening routine immunization

16 November 2010

C. Scudamore

The most effective means of ensuring future progress in reducing measles-related deaths through vaccination was discussed at length during the SAGE meeting held on 9-11 November in Geneva. The Committee emphasized the importance of strengthening routine immunization during measles vaccination activities, and building on past success to prevent resurgence of the disease.

SAGE concluded that measles can and should be eradicated, but that it was premature to set an eradication date. The eradication of measles represents a unique disease control and developmental opportunity and should be carried out in the context of strengthening routine immunization. In addition, the programme efficiencies of using combined measles-rubella vaccine and integrated fever-rash surveillance, provide an opportunity for measles eradication activities to accelerate rubella control and the prevention of congenital rubella syndrome.

SAGE requested ongoing monitoring of progress against the 2015 global targets and existing regional measles elimination goals, measurable progress being required for the establishment of a date for achieving measles eradication. SAGE noted the real threat of losing programme momentum in the fight against measles and recommended enhanced advocacy and communication efforts to highlight the importance of measles control to achieving overall child health goals, emphasizing that further measles mortality reduction and measles eradication rank among the best buys in public health.

Other topics discussed included: polio eradication; seasonal influenza and H5N1 pandemic influenza vaccine; progress, challenges and opportunities for the use of typhoid vaccines in typhoid-endemic countries; optimizing immunization schedules; the sustainable adoption and financing of new vaccines by lower-middle-income countries; the accessibility to affordable vaccines and WHO's potential role in supporting emerging vaccine manufacturers; and an update on the epidemiology of the unimmunized and gender related issues.

The report of the meeting will be published in the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record on 7 January 2011. The meeting documents - including presentations and background readings - can already be found on the web at the below link