Europe is closer than ever to eliminating measles and rubella – remaining countries urged to “catch up”

Copenhagen, 5 April 2016

Thirty-two countries in the European Region have interrupted transmission of endemic measles and/or rubella, according to the conclusions of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC), released today.

“Interruption of transmission in more than half of Europe’s countries shows that regional elimination of measles and rubella is possible and we are on the right track to achieve it. Momentum must be maintained to sustain this achievement where it is still fragile, and to ensure the remaining endemic countries catch up quickly”, says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Complacency anywhere will result in a dangerous resurgence of these preventable diseases and the unnecessary suffering and loss of life that they cause. We call on all of Europe’s policy-makers to join forces to eliminate measles and rubella once and for all.”

RVC verifies measles and rubella elimination

The independent RVC assesses Member States’ progress towards elimination of measles and rubella by reviewing epidemiological and laboratory surveillance data submitted by each country’s national verification committee, now established in 50 of the 53 Member States.

At its 4th meeting, in October 2015, the RVC was able to assess, for the first time, the performance of each country over 36 consecutive months. According to the Framework for the verification process in the WHO European Region and conclusions of the European Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, once a country has demonstrated the absence of endemic measles or rubella virus transmission for at least 36 consecutive months, the RVC can verify that the disease has been eliminated.

The RVC was pleased to confirm that 32 countries interrupted transmission of endemic measles and/or rubella in 2014, and to verify that 21 Member States had eliminated measles and 20 had eliminated rubella within their borders during the period 2012–2014. High-quality surveillance to detect cases and monitor chains of virus transmission and very high immunization coverage (≥ 95%) with two doses of vaccine against measles and rubella were essential to attain this goal.

Boosting efforts to achieve the final goal

In addition to commending countries for achieving these objectives, the RVC made recommendations to help under-performing countries catch up. They identified gaps in surveillance, coverage and annual reporting, demonstrating that greater commitment and support are urgently needed to achieve elimination throughout the European Region.

Eliminating measles and rubella is a core goal of the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020 and an important part of global efforts to improve health and reduce inequalities (Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 10, respectively). The RVC and WHO are committed to the verification process and will continue to provide national public health authorities throughout the Region with political, technical and advocacy support until measles and rubella elimination has been achieved.

For media inquiries, please contact :

Cristiana Salvi
Communications Officer
Communicable Diseases and Health Security
WHO Regional Office for Europe
UN City, Marmorvej 51
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 4533 6837

For national data please contact :

Robb Butler
Programme Manager
Vaccine-preventable Diseases & Immunization
WHO Regional Office for Europe
UN City, Marmorvej 51
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 4533 6635

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