THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Americas region first to be officially declared rubella-free

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) leaders announced a historic milestone in Washington, D.C., on April 29, by declaring the Americas region the world’s first to be rubella-free.

Culminating a decade and a half of an assertive vaccination campaign against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) throughout the Western Hemisphere, the achievement coincides with the 13th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas, slated for April 25 through May 2.

The declaration designates rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) as the third and fourth vaccine-preventable diseases to be eliminated from the Americas, following the regional elimination of smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a contagious viral disease particularly dangerous for pregnant women. It has been known to cause multiple birth defects and even fetal death, with widespread outbreaks prior to the vaccine development.

"Three years ago, governments agreed on a Global Vaccine Action Plan," Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said. "One of the plan's targets is to eliminate rubella from two WHO regions by end-2015. I congratulate the Americas Region for being the first region to achieve this." 

Forty-five nations and territories in the Western Hemisphere are participating in Vaccination Week. The event aims to raise awareness of immunization’s importance and to bring vaccines to hard-to-reach groups such as those living in urban fringe areas or border communities.

Vaccination Week in the Americas also inspired the creation of World Immunization Week, now in its fourth year. PAHO, founded in 1902, is the world’s oldest international public health organization.

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