Expert advisory group calls for urgent action to close gaps in measles and rubella immunity

In light of continuing measles and rubella outbreaks in the WHO European Region and inadequate responses to them, the European Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (ETAGE), during its annual meeting on 9–11 October 2013, encouraged Member States to make or revisit action plans for measles and rubella elimination and urgently to address immunity gaps in their populations. Lack of immediate action would threaten the achievement of the Region’s target of eliminating measles and rubella by 2015.

The 8-member ETAGE gives guidance to WHO/Europe and Member States on immunization-related activities and developments in the European Region. At this year’s meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, it received WHO/Europe’s reports on vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization activities in the Region.

Other participants actively involved in the discussions were representatives of partner organizations (the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the GAVI Alliance, the SIVAC Initiative and the United Nations Children’s Fund), the global Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and, for the first time, national immunization technical advisory groups (NITAGS) from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. NITAGs make scientific recommendations to health ministries on immunization policy and practice.

Accelerated action needed

ETAGE welcomed WHO/Europe’s plan to increase support to countries, as outlined in the package for accelerated for action measles and rubella elimination for 2013–2015. The package encompasses many activities and tools, such as new guidelines for investigation and response to measles and rubella outbreaks, which countries can use to enhance their elimination efforts. It also provides a timeline and set of milestones to be achieved leading up to 2015.

Global developments, poliomyelitis (polio) and adult immunization

Other topics discussed at the ETAGE meeting included:

  • operationalizing the monitoring, evaluation and accountability framework for WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan;
  • planning the introduction of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV);
  • developing strategies for adult immunization;
  • sustaining immunization investments in countries scheduled to graduate from support from the GAVI Alliance; and
  • developing of a regional vaccine action plan for Europe.