Despite the success to date, real challenges remain to sustain current progress and achieve the 2015 measles mortality reduction goal.
While the gains are impressive, they are not enough. An estimated 139,300 children – 380 a day – died from measles related complications in 2010. Costing just $1 to vaccinate a child, the measles & rubella control and elimination strategy represents one of the most cost-effective health interventions available.
Yet, many developing countries that are facing multiple health challenges have limited funds, making financial support from the Measles & Rubella Initiative critical. Funding shortfalls and reduced political commitment in 2008 and 2009 led to widespread measles outbreaks and a setback for measles mortality reduction.
The GAVI Alliance has recently made a large financial commitment to fund the introduction of rubella vaccine through wide age-range measles-rubella campaigns to GAVI eligible countries. However additional multi-year funding is still required to reach the measles, rubella and CRS control and elimination goals.
Sustaining the Gains
When the Measles Initiative was formed in 2001, the greatest number of measles-related deaths occurred in Africa. An intense focus and regular campaigns have yielded incredible results – measles deaths in the region declined by 85 percent over ten years. Recent outbreaks across the continent, however, signal the need for improved coverage and timely campaigns. To ensure no child goes unprotected and the gains are sustained, measles vaccination campaigns must be offered every two to four years until the routine immunization system is capable of reaching all children with two doses of measles vaccine.
Progress in Asia
The South-East Asia region is the only region that has not achieved the 90% reduction goal. Outbreaks combined with a delayed start in measles control in India meant that meeting that goal was not possible. However, India has scaled up its efforts to control measles and is offering a second dose of measles vaccine to an estimated 134 million children. In addition, five out of six regions have resolved to eliminate measles before 2020 and the World Health Assembly has resolved to reduce measles deaths by 95% by 2015.