Global partners join the call to end measles and rubella

Last week, the Measles & Rubella Initiative was joined by an array of partners in Geneva, for an advocacy event on October 21st, co-hosted by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

The event highlighted global progress in preventing measles and rubella, the recommendations of the Midterm Review report of the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012-2020, just recently endorsed by SAGE, and Gavi’s new Measles and Rubella strategy.

Speakers included Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, IFRC and Ms. Anuradha Gupta, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.  Dr. Jin Tongling, Deputy Director of EPI, People’s Republic of China was a special guest, presenting China’s experience in using measles vaccination to strengthen its routine systems.

Recent developments in global efforts to protect children against measles and rubella were also presented, culminating in a robust discussion on the steps needed to further progress towards elimination. The discussion also raised awareness within the global community of the burden of measles and rubella, that measles is a key indicator of a country’s routine immunization strength; and a key issue in complex setting and emergencies.

Our partners joined in the collective plea for stronger commitment for political support and swift action from countries and agencies to end the high toll of measles and rubella worldwide.

SAGE endorses Midterm Review of Global Strategy

SAGE endorses Midterm Review of the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012-2020

The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization met in Geneva, October 18 to 20, 2016. As part of its intensive three day agenda, SAGE reviewed the independent report presented by Dr. Walt Orenstein, Professor of Medicine at Emory University and Chair of the Midterm Review panel.

Measles mortality has dropped by 79% between 2000 and 2014 with an estimated 17.1 million lives saved through measles vaccination during this same time period. Despite these significant advances, the Midterm Review found the strategies articulated in the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012-2020 have not been fully implemented due to lack of country ownership and global political will as reflected in insufficient resources.

The report also recommends an increased focus with improving immunization systems in general to ensure that the gains made thus far in measles and rubella control can be sustained.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative welcomes this review and continues to work with partners, stakeholders and countries to push measles and rubella elimination activities towards 2020 goals and beyond. Our focus continues to be on increasing resources and ensuring technical work continues apace to ensure that recommendations from the review can be incorporated towards the global elimination of measles and rubella.

The Midterm Review report is available here.


SAGE is the principal advisory group to WHO for vaccines and immunization, providing guidance on global policies and strategies.

Measles & rubella in Europe: LSHTM and WHO EURO event: Sept 20

Measles and rubella in Europe: A process of elimination

Member States of the WHO European Region have a long-standing commitment to eliminate measles and rubella from this Region. Progress is clear, with 34 of 53 countries having interrupted transmission of either or both diseases by 2014. However, immunization coverage has stagnated, or even declined in some areas, and outbreaks continue to occur. The Region is at a critical junction: while working hard to maintain this status where it has been achieved, more must be done to identify and remove barriers to full vaccination coverage in areas and communities still threatened by these diseases. What are the next steps in the fight against measles and rubella in Europe?

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Europe will host a 1-day public event to:

  • make key audiences aware of how far we have come and what remains to be done
  • examine how some countries have overcome barriers to elimination so that others may learn from these strategies
  • review recent advances in our understanding of measles elimination, attitudes towards vaccination and accurate measurement of vaccine safety.

WHEN: Tuesday, September 20 at 10:45–18.30 Free admission – online registration required:

WHERE: John Snow Lecture Theatre London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Keppel Street London, United Kingdom

Live streaming:

  • 13:30-15:00 Recent Advances in Controlling Measles and Rubella

  • 15:30-17:00 Panel discussion: Challenges with Elimination and How They Can Be Overcome

For more information:

Social media and technology at work in Kenya

Measles & Rubella Initiative founding partner, the American Red Cross recently supported the Kenya Red Cross with community outreach to ensure as many children were protected against measles during a recent campaign. The Kenya Red Cross used social media to reach its extensive audience and SMS text messaging to ensure that information on the campaign was widely disseminated. Social media expert, Munir Ahmed, explains how and why they’re using technology to reach as many Kenyan families as possible in this interview.


Lessons From Rubella Suggest Zika’s Impact Could Linger

By Nell Greenfieldboyce | NPR

As scientists struggle to understand the threat posed by Zika virus, there’s another viral infection that’s a known danger in pregnancy and that harms 100,000 babies a year, even though it has been preventable with a vaccine since 1969.

The disease is rubella, or German measles. Like Zika, the rubella virus often causes either a mild rash or no symptoms at all.

Click here to read full article

The anti-vaccination movement

The anti-vaccination movement has a long history, beginning in France in 1763 and continuing through to today. As with all hot-button issues, it’s important to have accurate information and listen to both sides of the story. In the below infographic, developed by Mark Kirkpatrick, a freelance health journalist and dietitian, we discuss the reasoning and history behind the anti-vaccination movement.  In the early days of immunization, distrust in vaccines was well-warranted. There was no official quarantine procedure for those who’d already been inoculated and 18th Century doctors didn’t have quite the same standards as us when it came to sanitation and disease prevention. But as you can see, medical knowledge and standards have progressed greatly since those times and today’s vaccinations are a safe and effective tool in battling global health issues such as measles and rubella.

More than just a timeline of anti-vaccination movements, this infographic also includes useful information about vaccination itself, some of which might very well surprise you. For example: did you know that the first immunizations were administered in China in the 10th Century BCE? Or that the famed French philosopher Voltaire argued strongly for immunizations?


Click here for a high res version.

Global Burden of Congenital Rubella Syndrome, 1996-2010

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) is a preventable cause of infant mortality and lifelong disability. Previous analyses concluded that approximately 110,000 (range: 14,000–308,000) children were born with CRS in 1996 in 78 (developing) countries which had not introduced rubella-containing vaccine (RCV) in their national programme. Updated estimates are important, given growing activity in controlling and eliminating rubella and CRS. By 2010, 130 countries had introduced RCV nationally, compared with 83 reporting use by 1996 and three of the six WHO regions had established rubella control/elimination and CRS prevention/ elimination goals.

While falling dramatically in the Americas, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean after vaccination, the estimated CRS incidence remains high elsewhere. Read the full study here.

Community volunteers take the vaccination message into Nepal’s earthquake-affected areas

Devaki Poudel, Red Cross volunteer, stands in front of the Nuwakot district chapter office following social mobilization training on the upcoming measles and rubella campaign in Nepal.

By Niki Clark, IFRC

Twenty five people sit around a long, rectangular table in the Nuwakot District Office of the Nepal Red Cross Society. They scribble into their notebooks as fiercely as the fans whir above. Deependra Shrestha, the Red Cross Branch health focal point for Nuwakot, stands in front of them, preparing them for the upcoming measles and rubella campaign they will be taking out into their communities.

In total, 435 volunteers from the 14 most earthquake-affected districts are participating in a nationwide campaign aimed at vaccinating nearly 600,000 children up to 5 years old against measles and rubella. As Shrestha explains, following humanitarian emergencies such as the 25 April earthquake, preventative public health interventions are as critical as relief distributions. In many cases, they can help prevent secondary disasters such as disease outbreaks.

Devaki Poudel is one such volunteer. At 35 years old, she has been a single mother since her husband died 13 years ago. Her house was severely damaged in the quake and she received blankets and shelter materials from the Red Cross. She’s seen more loss in her life than many.

“I wanted to be educated,” she said. “I have a voice; I wanted to be a singer. But I got married at 15 and had to leave school after Grade 8.”

When her children were very small, they both got measles, making a tough situation even harder.

“They were both so sickly, and I remember they both wanted to sleep with me, so I had to sleep in the middle of the bed. I got up at midnight one time, because I was scared and wanted to turn on the light,” she said. “I felt particularly down, and was wondering why I was even alive. Then I turned around and the light was shining on my children’s faces. I realized I needed to be alive for them. I want them to be educated. It is because of them I have been able to be strong, even after the earthquake.”

Devaki’s children recovered fully from the illness. But before widespread vaccination campaigns, measles caused millions of complications and deaths worldwide. Rubella during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or other problems.

Having seen firsthand the pain measles can cause, she volunteered to help as soon she found out about the campaign, joining the hundreds of others that will be distributing information, organizing school rallies and communicating about the campaign. The campaign brings together several partners, including the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization and the Nepal Red Cross Society, and will run for nearly a month.

“I don’t want children to suffer like mine did; to miss all their activities,” Devaki said. “And I don’t want single mothers to suffer like I did. This is why I am so happy the Red Cross has given me this chance.”