Measles & Rubella Initiative – World Immunization Week
April 24 marked the beginning of World Immunization Week (WIW) a global campaign aimed at promoting the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.
This year’s WIW focuses on closing the immunization gap and reaching equity in immunization levels as outlined in the Global Vaccine Action Plan, the framework dedicated to extending the full benefits of immunization to all people by 2020. Read more about the WIW and see the new 2015 Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) Fact Sheet outlining the challenges to be overcome in order to achieve the global elimination of measles. In addition, in honor of WIW, this blog features the story of Ileze, son of Josephine, a mother of five living in Cotonou, Benin.
Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia and Japan are Declared Measles Free!
The Western Pacific Region moves a step closer to achieving measles elimination with the news that Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia and Japan have achieved measles-free status. But despite substantial progress in recent years—with measles deaths dropping to 1,500 in 2013 from 10,400 in 2000—the region still faces immense challenges. Both China and the Philippines have ongoing measles transmission, while the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Papua New Guinea, Viet Nam and some Pacific island countries experienced new outbreaks in 2014 after prolonged stretches in which there had been little or no measles transmission.
Resuming Measles Activities in Ebola-affected countries
Last year’s Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone interrupted a wide range of regular health services, including immunization. This interruption could result in an upsurge in measles cases, as measles is far more contagious than Ebola. On average, a case of Ebola results in two new infections, whereas a person infected with measles can generate up to 18 new cases among susceptible persons.
“Microneedle” Vaccine Patches Promise Less Pain, More Gain
The technology for vaccinating people against measles is almost the same as it was 50 years ago—a freeze-dried powder vaccine that requires continuous refrigerated storage, liquid reconstitution prior to use, and a needle-and-syringe injection. But thanks to researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Georgia Tech, all that could soon change. The breakthrough is called a “microneedle patch,” a collection of dozens of tiny needles that are lined up on a small patch. The promise for public health is enormous. Read the story here.
Despite major advances in increasing coverage with measles and rubella vaccine, recent reports note that many countries and regions are not on course to reach Global Vaccine Action Plan targets. Increasing vaccination coverage will require additional investments to address barriers to measles and rubella vaccination and to develop innovative strategies for increasing coverage.
To help achieve this, the M&RI has asked the CDC, a founding partner of the M&RI, to take the lead in forming a Research and Innovations (R&I) working group within the M&RI. The R&I Working Group monitors, prioritizes, and coordinates measles and rubella research and will establish a mechanism for funding the high priority research needed to meet measles and rubella elimination targets.
The R&I Working Group will also help coordinate the periodic updating of the measles and rubella research agenda, which was established in 2011, by working with M&RI partners, government agencies and academic institutions.
Counting the Cost of Measles Outbreaks in the US
Officials in the US state of California on 17 April declared the end of a measles outbreak at Disneyland that affected at least 159 people. This brought to 644 the number of measles cases in the US in 2014, the largest number since the year 2000. For an idea of the financial cost of measles outbreaks in the US, a new CDC report estimates that the investigation of 107 measles cases in 2011 cost state and local health departments close to US $5.3 million. More on the real cost of measles in the US can be found here.