Measles Elimination in the Western Pacific Region

BEIJING and MANILA, Philippines -- Measles: normal childhood illness or killer disease?  Actually, it is both but it could soon be neither.  Measles has already been eliminated in the WHO Region of the Americas.  The challenge is for the rest of the world to catch up. Can the Western Pacific Region* eliminate measles within the next seven years?

   

That is the key question to be debated by immunization experts at a WHO

meeting in Beijing June 8-10.  The Technical Advisory Group will

consider whether 2012 is a feasible date for the Region to achieve measles

elimination.  Mobilizing sufficient political and financial support to achieve

the elimination goal will be a key consideration.

   

''We want to eliminate measles as soon as possible,'' says Dr. Shigeru Omi,

WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, ''but we have to realize that

progress across the Region varies and some countries are further advanced than

others.  A group of experts forming the task force on measles elimination

identified 2012 as a realistic target date for the Region to achieve

elimination.''

   

Despite a 95 percent reduction in measles deaths in the region since the pre-

vaccine era, measles remains a leading cause of death among young children.

It also leaves at least as many with life-long disabilities like blindness,

deafness and brain damage.  About 30,000 children die each year from measles

in the Region, nearly all of them in five countries:  Cambodia, China, the Lao

People's Democratic Republic, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

   

"It is unacceptable that children are dying from measles, a disease that

can be easily prevented by an effective, safe and inexpensive vaccine," says

Omi.  "The children who die from measles are generally the most

disadvantaged children in the region.  Reaching and protecting these children

is not just a disease control issue; it is also about fairness and justice."

   

Because measles is one of the most infectious viruses, practically every

child needs to be immunized with two doses of measles vaccine to stop its

spread.  This means that health services need to reach every community,

especially the most disadvantaged that are at highest risk of disease and its

consequences.

   

Routine immunization services are a fundamental public health requirement.

But geographical, cultural, and other barriers leave many communities

underserved.  Measles elimination makes it essential for health services to

reach, and keep reaching, every community.  In so doing, other health

interventions can also be delivered to the community, including other life-

saving vaccines.

But measles elimination has to compete for attention and funding with many

other development issues in the region.  "Sustained political commitment and

sufficient funding are crucial to achieve measles elimination," says Omi.

"We think that a target date of 2012 will help to mobilize these."

 

    * The 37 countries and areas comprising the WHO Western Pacific Region

      are: American Samoa, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook

      Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hong Kong (China), Japan,

      Kiribati, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Macao (China), Malaysia,

      the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia,

      Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, the Commonwealth of the

      Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the

      Pitcairn Islands, the Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon

      Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Wallis and

      Futuna.

 

                          

Source: World Health Organization

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