Measles Initiative praises GAVI Alliance's rubella campaigns

On Thursday, the Measles Initiative praised the GAVI Alliance board's decision to fund rubella campaigns in the countries with the greatest need.
The decision will result in introducing a combined measles and rubella vaccine in many countries. This campaign may save lives, protect hundreds of thousands of children against birth defects and help to eliminate rubella and measles from the world.
During its meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this week, the GAVI Alliance board approved a new funding window for rubella vaccine, allowing countries to apply for funding for combined rubella and measles “catch-up” campaigns to vaccinate children aged nine months through 14 years old. The campaigns can build on the existing systems and lessons learned from measles campaigns supported by the Measles Initiative over the past decade. Countries could then fund the introduction of MR vaccine into their routine immunization programs after the campaigns.
“Funding from the GAVI Alliance for measles and rubella vaccine campaigns will help countries to rapidly scale up introduction of rubella vaccine, protect their populations and contribute to the elimination of measles and rubella,” Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, the director of Immunization at the World Health Organization, said. “The Measles Initiative will work closely with the GAVI Alliance to help countries introduce rubella vaccine, build on the success of measles and other immunization campaigns and provide combined measles and rubella vaccines as part of routine health services.”
The Measles Initiative aims to eliminate measles, but has also built rubella elimination into its strategic plan for 2011-2020. The two vaccines can be combined for little additional cost. Experts recommend that measles elimination strategies can also stop the transmission of rubella. While rubella is generally a mild illness, when a pregnant woman becomes infected, serious consequences can occur, including miscarriage, stillbirths and infants born with birth defects known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome. The most common congenital defects include heart problems, deafness or blindness. CRS remains a major public health problem with an estimated 112,000 cases occurring globally, 90,000 of which are in GAVI eligible countries.