Georgia expands immunization campaign to prevent further spread of measles
Following supplemental immunization activities (SIAs) initiated in March 2013 in response to a measles outbreak, representatives of the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health met with WHO experts at the Regional Office in Copenhagen on 14–16 August 2013 to evaluate progress and plan the next phase of the campaign.
SIAs begun in Tbilisi in March 2013 and subsequently rolled out to other areas have covered an estimated 90% of the initial target group of over 50 000 individuals. This group consisted of children under 7 years of age who had not been immunized at all for measles or had only received one dose of measles vaccine, health care workers and people who had been in contact with measles cases.
In collaboration with WHO and other partners, Georgia will expand this campaign in the coming months to reach children 14 years of age and younger as well as special groups throughout the country that are known to have lower population immunity. This phase targeting approximately 100 000 individuals will also be used as an opportunity to provide polio vaccines to underimmunized groups in difficult-to-reach areas.
Despite substantial progress made in recent years towards the European regional target of eliminating measles and rubella by 2015, large measles outbreaks have been reported in several countries in the Region in the first half of 2013.
To ensure a coordinated response to outbreaks in Azerbaijan and Georgia and the importation of measles cases into Armenia, WHO/Europe organized a high-level meeting for the Caucasus subregion that took place on 10–11 July 2013 in Tbilisi, Georgia. The meeting was attended by representatives of the three affected countries and experts from WHO, the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children’s Fund. The country delegations discussed plans for SIAs to be implemented in the coming months at national or local level and the attending partners agreed to provide technical and financial support where possible.