Measles and rubella vaccination campaign off to good start in Kyrgyzstan

Medecins sans Frontieres

Local health workers provide information on the immunization campaign and answer questions to encourage people to take part.

The first stage of a nationwide campaign to vaccinate young people against measles and rubella in Kyrgyzstan has been completed successfully. As of 10 April 2015 vaccines had been administered to 89.4% of the initial target group of 7–20-year-olds in Bishkek and Chuysk oblasts (regions). The campaign is targeting over 2 million children and young people aged 1–20 years in response to a large-scale measles outbreak in the country. 

Measles cases began to rise in Kyrgyzstan in early 2014, but the rate of transmission increased dramatically late in the year, with between 120 and 250 new measles cases reported daily and the number of suspected cases reaching over 16 000 by April 2015. The outbreak has exposed widespread immunity gaps in the population, highlighting the urgent need to increase vaccination coverage through both enhanced routine and supplementary immunization activities. 

WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other partners have been working with Kyrgyzstan's health authorities in various technical areas to prepare for and ensure the success of the immunization campaign. 

Region-wide action needed

The European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination concluded in November 2014 that over half of the 53 Member States in the WHO European Region have not yet interrupted endemic transmission of measles and/or rubella. To prevent the kind of outbreaks seen this year in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere, and ultimately to reach the Region's goal of eliminating measles and rubella, Member States have been urged to step up action immediately. Depending on each country's specific challenges, this may mean addressing immunization gaps, increasing disease surveillance, improving funding for immunization programmes or other indicators identified in the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020.