Sri Lanka and Maldives have eradicated rubella and measles: WHO

“We cannot allow for our progress towards measles and rubella elimination to be put on hold or reversed,’ Poonam Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka and the Maldives have eradicated measles and rubella, the World Health Organization said, becoming the first two countries in the WHO South-East Asia region to do so.

A country is verified as having eliminated rubella and measles diseases when there is no evidence of endemic transmission of the viruses for over three years in the presence of a well performing surveillance system.

Maldives had reported last endemic case of measles in 2009 and of rubella in October 2015, while Sri Lanka reported last endemic case of measles in May 2016 and of rubella in March 2017.

“Coming at a time when the entire world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, this success is encouraging and demonstrates the importance of joint efforts,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

“Though mass vaccination activities have been postponed in several countries, it is encouraging to see that efforts are underway to resume them at the soonest.”

The announcement was made after the fifth meeting of the South-East Asia Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination, which was held virtually.

In September 2020 the region had earlier set 202 as the target date to eliminate measles and rubella.

Bhutan, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste are other countries in the Region who have eliminated measles.

In a global survey, more than half of all countries reported moderate-to-severe disruptions or a total suspension of vaccination services in March and April 2020.

Preliminary information from the Region suggested that both immunization coverage and surveillance have been hit, WHO said.

But countries in WHO South-East Asia Region are trying to resume immunization and surveillance.

“We cannot allow for our progress towards measles and rubella elimination to be put on hold or reversed,’ Khetrapal Singh said.

‘We must achieve our 2023 target.”

All countries in the Region had introduced two doses of measles-containing vaccine and at least one dose of rubella-containing vaccine in their routine immunization programme.

First-dose coverage of measles-containing vaccine is now 88 percent and the second-dose coverage 76 percent.

Since 2017, nearly 500 million additional children have been vaccinated with measles and rubella-containing vaccine. Surveillance for measles and rubella has been strengthened further. (Colombo/July08/2020)

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