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Jakarta Post

‘Big 6’ countries of WHO SEARO meet to strengthen fight against measles

  • Elly Burhaini Faizal
    Elly Burhaini Faizal

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 31, 2018   /   03:45 pm
‘Big 6’ countries of WHO SEARO meet to strengthen fight against measles Stay healthy: President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo talks with a student of state Islamic junior high school Madrasah Tsanawiyah Negeri 10 in Ngaglik, Sleman, Yogyakarta, during the launch of the measles and rubella vaccination program on Aug.1, 2017. (Antara/Andreas Fitri Atmoko)

The big six countries of the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO), including Indonesia, on Wednesday shared their immunization challenges and lessons learned for accelerating efforts to eliminate measles and control rubella by the year 2020.

Every year, nearly 4.8 million children in the region fail to get vaccinated against measles.

“Eliminating measles would avert half a million deaths, while controlling rubella and congenital rubella syndrome [CRS] would promote health of pregnant women and the infants they give life to,” said WHO SEARO regional director Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

Two of the region’s countries, namely Bhutan and Maldives, eliminated measles in 2017. The others are carrying out large-scale immunization efforts to achieve the same result.

Nearly 500 million children in the region are planned to be given measles and rubella vaccines through routine immunization and supplementary immunization campaigns in the next two years.

Khetrapal Singh said sharing challenges and lessons learned from various recent achievements and initiatives would help member countries address their unique problems to close the immunity gap against measles, rubella and CRS.

Last year, India and Indonesia targeted 70 million and 35 million children respectively in supplementary measles immunization campaigns. Both have further strengthened routine immunization systems. Four other countries Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand have also stepped up efforts to better protect their people from measles through immunization. 

Nearly 38 million children are born in the region every year, and approximately 87 percent of them receive the first dose of the vaccine, leaving 4.8 million children vulnerable to the measles each year.