Experts meet to discuss verification process for measles and rubella elimination

WHO

National experts meeting to discuss the process of verifying measles and rubella elimination from Europe

Countries are committed to eradicating measles and rubella in the WHO European Region by 2015.

Based on a recommendation from the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC), which evaluates progress towards the goal, Member States are setting up national verification committees (NVCs) to oversee the process at country level, and report their findings to the RVC. So far, 16 countries have established NVCs. WHO/Europe encourages all Member States to do so as soon as possible, and expects the NVCs to submit their first annual status reports to the RVC before the end of July 2013.

Members of the RVC and some NVCs, measles focal points in countries and virologists from 16 northern and western European Member States gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark on 29–30 January 2013 at a meeting jointly organized by WHO/Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The purpose of the meeting was to inform national experts about the process of documenting measles and rubella elimination, and to enable participants to share information on the situation at the national and regional levels and discuss action to increase vaccination coverage through routine and/or supplemental immunization activities.

Progress towards elimination

In 2012, 11 countries in the Region experienced measles outbreaks. From January to October 2012, over 20 000 cases of measles were reported in 51 countries in the WHO European Region, although 87% were reported in only 4 countries. Most cases were in young people aged 5–19 years:

  • <1 year: 10%
  • 1–4 years: 23%
  • 5–19 years: 39%
  • ≥20 years: 28%.

Rubella showed a similar pattern in the first 10 months of 2012: over 28 000 cases were reported by 43 countries, with 99% of cases concentrated in 4 countries.

During the WHO/ECDC meeting, experts discussed how to increase vaccination coverage through routine and/or supplemental immunization.

A vital part of the verification process is accurate and timely reporting, with at least 80% of measles and rubella surveillance reports submitted by the deadline. Overall, measles and rubella reporting improved in 2012, but adequate monthly reports are still delayed and reports from a few countries are incomplete.

Meeting conclusions and next steps

The meeting facilitated information sharing on the regional verification process and provided an opportunity for representatives from Member States to share experience, discuss their concerns and challenges, and offer input to further develop the verification process. It also allowed RVC members to gain a greater understanding of Member States’ systems for measles and rubella elimination and to consider ways to further develop and implement the verification process.

The meeting was the second of a series of four to engage all Member States in the verification process. The first took place in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in October 2012.

The next meeting, with participants from selected central and western European Member States, will take place in Rome, Italy on 12–13 February 2013. The final meeting, for south-eastern countries, is planned for 27–28 February in Sofia, Bulgaria.