Bhutan and Maldives Eliminates Measles: WHO

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Bhutan and Maldives have eliminated measles, a highly infectious disease that is a major childhood killer globally.

The two countries have become the first in WHO South-East Asia Region to be verified for having interrupted endemic measles virus transmission, ahead of the 2020 Regional target.

Bhutan and Maldives launched their Expanded Program on Immunization in 1979 and 1976 respectively, and since then worked indefatigably to increase access to immunization services.

Both countries achieved and maintained high coverage of measles vaccination, despite geographical challenges. They also established strong laboratory-supported surveillance for measles, and have conducted detailed case investigation and tracking, right up to the very last case.

Maldives has not reported any case of indigenous measles since 2009, and Bhutan since 2012.

To fortify their progress, both countries have been carrying out mass vaccination campaigns with measles and rubella vaccine covering high-risk populations.

Measles elimination and rubella control by 2020 has been one of WHO South-East Asia Region’s flagship priority programmes since Dr Khetrapal Singh became Regional Director in February 2014.

The measles elimination and rubella control strategy in WHO South-East Asia Region is based on four key approaches – achieving and maintaining at least 95% vaccination coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccine through routine and supplementary immunization; developing and sustaining a sensitive case based surveillance that meets recommended performance indicators; developing and maintaining an accredited measles and rubella laboratory network; and strengthening support and linkages for these strategies.

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