Four countries in Europe lose measles elimination status


The European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) has assessed the annual status updated for 2018, concluding that the number of countries having achieved or sustained elimination of the disease has declined.

For the first time since verification began in 2012, the RVC has reported that four countries – the United Kingdom, Albania, Czech Republic and Greece – have lost their measles elimination status.

Günter Pfaff, Chair of the RVC, commented: “Re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die.”

However, Switzerland and Austria have attained their elimination status, which indicates that endemic transmission has been interrupted for at least 36 months. For the region, which include 53 member states, 12 countries remain endemic for measles, 35 countries are considered to have achieved or sustained measles elimination, two have eliminated sustained transmission and four have seen the re-establishment of measles transmission.

This image shows the measles status in the European Region in 2018Overall in 2019, approximately 90,000 cases were reported in the European Region in the first 6 months, this is more than the number of cases recorded for the entirety of 2018, which numbers 84,462.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, concluded: “Great efforts to control this highly contagious disease have brought us a long way towards regional elimination. However, ongoing measles outbreaks demonstrate that more is needed. Through activation of the emergency response, WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded its action.”

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What does measles elimination mean?

The 2012 measles elimination goal, which was set by the Regional Committee requires the absence of endemic measles virus transmission in a country, region, or other defined geographic area, for ≥36 months, under conditions of high-quality surveillance that meets targets of key performance indicators.

Why have measles cases exploded?

After a spike in measles cases in 2017, where measles outbreaks were described in all regions, the WHO reported the increased cases were due to gaps in vaccination coverage. In this report the WHO stated that global coverage with the first dose of the measles vaccine had stalled at 85% with second dose coverage standing at 67%, far short of the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks. This leaves many individuals susceptible to the disease.


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