The Measles & Rubella Initiative urges increased commitment to stop measles deaths

The World Health Organization released new measles mortality data for 2013 today and warns that progress towards measles elimination has stalled. The data underlines the critical need for increased financing and stronger, more focused efforts to increase vaccination coverage and ensure measles elimination progress.

Since the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) launched in 2001, impressive gains have been made towards controlling measles outbreaks and eliminating the disease, thanks to the hard work of ministries of health, healthcare workers around the world and our many partners. Measles deaths have dropped 75% from an estimated 544,200 deaths in 2000 to an estimated 145,700 deaths in 2013.

However, the failure in recent years to increase measles vaccination coverage has led to large scale outbreaks all around the world, which have now thrown regional 2015 measles elimination goals off-track.

The data released today reminds us that we cannot ease up in our fight against measles. The achievements made thus far have been significant, but complacency and a loss of momentum in measles control efforts will quickly erode this progress.

We urge parents and community leaders around the world to ensure that their children are fully immunized against measles with two doses of measles-containing vaccine. Education on the benefits of immunization is of the utmost importance, as evidenced by the detrimental effects of large-scale outbreaks in places where access to vaccines is not the primary issue. In other parts of the world where children still lack access to immunization services, the M&RI is committed to continuing our work to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to be protected from measles with a safe and effective vaccine.

Though the numbers today underscore the challenges we face in reaching elimination goals, it is also important to applaud the many governments taking on increased responsibility and redoubling efforts to eliminate measles by increasing coverage through routine services and mass vaccination campaigns.  We know that this is a step in the right direction and, with concerted effort, we can reverse the worrying trends that we see outlined in today’s data.

We encourage the global health community to view the new measles mortality data as an important cautionary note. It serves as a reminder that measles moves fast, so we must move faster.

Together, we can use this moment to recommit to the goal of making measles a disease of the past.

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