Raising awareness on the importance of vaccination: focus on halting the measles outbreak in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan conducted a flash mob on 14 March 2019 as part of broader measures to increase awareness and immunization coverage in the country in the midst of a large measles outbreak.

Students of American University in Central Asia, led by a band playing live music, surprised shoppers at a large mall in Bishkek with an unannounced dance performance. Their performance attracted viewers who then stayed to hear speeches by Dr Ainura Akmatova, Head of Public health Department of the Ministry of health of Kyrgyzstan and Dr Kubanychbek Monolbaev, Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization Programme Officer, WHO Country Office in Kyrgyzstan, explaining to parents why it is important to get their children vaccinated. They also explained that with the measles virus currently circulating in the country it is especially important not to delay any scheduled vaccinations.

Social mobilization

Several events leading up to and during European Immunization Week (EIW) 2019, taking place 24-30 April, are being organized by the Republican Centre for Immunoprophylaxis and Public Health Department of the Ministry of Health. Printed materials distributed to the late-afternoon shopping crowd at the mall included home-based vaccination cards and information focused on alleviating parents’ concerns, for example by explaining that immunization is in line with WHO recommendations and is the best way to protect their children from measles and other dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases. They also provided detailed instructions on where families can go to receive any missed doses.

Measles in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has high immunization coverage nationwide, including 96% coverage with the second dose of measles-containing vaccine in 2017. Nevertheless, due to clusters of under-immunized individuals, it is currently experiencing a large measles outbreak. In 2017 only 8 cases of measles were reported in the whole country, and endemic transmission of the virus was declared eliminated by the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination. But the total number of cases rose to 1100 in 2018 and over 400 cases have been reported already for the first month of 2019