The annual Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) Partners’ Meeting will be held on September 7th and 8th in Washington, DC and will unite an anticipated 150 diverse partners from private sector, civil society, foundations, the United Nations, government, and donors to brainstorm the way forward in preventing illness, disability and deaths due to measles and rubella. The meeting’s theme is ‘Are we listening’ which reflects the wealth of information developed during 2016 to guide the work including the recommendations from the Mid-Term Review of the Measles and Rubella Global Strategic Plan, 2012-2020 released in late 2016, experiences from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and in strengthening routine immunization and surveillance. The many partners working to protect children and their families from measles and rubella will benefit from taking stock and ‘listening’ from these experiences. The partners will discuss major obstacles for reaching global goals in protecting children from measles and rubella, the risks to the M&RI following the withdrawal of polio resources, activities to raise awareness, and stagnating coverage in low- and middle-income countries around the world.
The M&RI Champion Award this year will be presented to the Pan American Health Organization for the elimination of measles and rubella from the Region of the Americas. Other award recipients include the Malawi Red Cross for supporting novel approaches to improve vaccination campaign quality; the America Red Cross National Nursing Network for U.S. Advocacy Efforts for the M&RI; Lions Club International Foundation for their longstanding and unwavering commitment to ensuring children and their families do not suffer from illness, disability and death due to measles and rubella; and Dr. Balcha Masresha from WHO Africa’s Regional Office for tireless efforts in supporting Ministries of Health in their fight against measles and rubella. Dr. Peter Strebel will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for his unequivocal dedication to measles and rubella elimination.
The M&RI and its partners have provided 16 years of support to countries that has helped to save millions of lives. In 2000, before the M&RI was formed, more than 562,000 children died worldwide from measles complications each year. Currently, rubella is the leading infectious disease, with an estimated 105,000 infants per year born worldwide with congenital rubella syndrome, causing serious birth defects including heart defects, cataracts, hearing loss, and developmental disability. Thanks to support from the M&RI and partners including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, measles vaccines saved an estimated 20.3 million lives from 2000 through the end of 2015.
Global progress against measles has been stunning. In just over a decade, more than 2 billion doses of measles vaccines have been delivered to children in 88 countries; additionally 153 countries provide rubella vaccine in their national immunization schedule, with 10 more countries expected to introduce it in 2017. In 2016 alone, 135 million children received measles or measles-rubella vaccines during immunization campaigns. Other public health interventions were also delivered in addition to measles or measles-rubella vaccine during 78% of these campaigns. As of September 2016, the Americas became the first Region to be declared free of endemic measles and rubella. However, it is important to ensure high immunization coverage routinely delivered to protect against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Strong commitment from countries and partners to boost immunization coverage and strengthen surveillance system is critical to protect all children no matter where they live.