World Measles Report - Additional Countries Lose Measles-Free Certification

Albania, Czechia, and Greece lose measles free certification
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For the 1st time since the World Health (WHO) measles verification process, the countries Albania, Czechia, and Greece joined the United Kingdom in losing their measles elimination status.

The United Kingdom announcement was made on August 19, 2019.  

This announcement published from Copenhagen on August 29, 2019, was the conclusion of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) based on an assessment of annual status updates for 2018 submitted by the 53 Member States of the Region.

The measles surge in cases that began in 2018 has continued into 2019, with approximately 90,000 cases reported for the first half of the year. This amount is already more than that recorded for the whole of 2018 (84,462), said the WHO in this press release.

For the 18-month period of January 2018 to June 30, 2019, over 100 measles-related deaths were reported.

“Re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die,” said Dr. Günter Pfaff, Chair of the RVC.

As of May 6, 2019, the ongoing circulation of measles in the Region continues to be internally classified within WHO as a Grade 2 emergency. This designation allows the Organization to mobilize the technical, financial and human resources needed to support the affected countries.

Based on the continued need for an enhanced tailored response to the spread of measles, on August 5, 2019, the May 2019 emergency activation was extended for another 3-month period.

But there is some good news too.

The RVC said it is ‘pleased to conclude that Austria and Switzerland have attained elimination status, having demonstrated the interruption of endemic measles transmission for at least 36 months.’

“Great efforts to control this highly contagious disease have brought us a long way towards regional elimination,” says Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“However, ongoing measles outbreaks demonstrate that more is needed.”

The RVC is an independent panel of experts that meets annually to assess measles elimination status in the Region based on extensive annual reports submitted by each country. 

The RVC met on 12–14 June 2019 in Warsaw, Poland to evaluate reports for 2018 and based its conclusion on several factors including measles surveillance data, routine immunization coverage, outbreak response, and the reach of supplemental immunization campaigns and other activities.


Article by
Dani Reiter