National stakeholders and international experts team up to tackle measles and rubella in Italy

WHO

To help Italy accelerate progress towards the elimination of measles and rubella, a delegation of measles and rubella experts and other stakeholders visited the country on 10-11 March 2015.

All 53 Member States of the WHO European Region committed in 2010 to eliminate measles and rubella by the end of 2015. Italy is one of the countries in the Region that have not yet interrupted endemic transmission of these diseases. Among the indicators that have raised concern is the high number of measles cases reported by Italy for 2014 (preliminary data indicate over 1500 cases).

The team focused on the process of achieving and documenting interruption of endemic transmission, including the need for high-quality surveillance and immunization coverage data and the roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved.

The Director General of Health Prevention of the Ministry of Health hosted the mission team, which met with key ministries and partners, including the National Institute of Health, scientific and civil societies, National Health Council and the chair of the Italian National Verification Committee for measles and rubella elimination.

A visit to one of the largest vaccination centres in Rome provided a chance for the team to meet with frontline health workers and better understand the challenges and strengths of the health system. Finally, the mission provided an opportunity for the Ministry to strengthen relations with Lions Club International, a civil society organization present in all 21 regions of Italy, and an important resource ready to provide support towards eliminating these diseases.

Mission team

WHO/Europe measles experts were accompanied by representatives of the Regional Verification Commission for measles and rubella elimination, the Measles and Rubella Initiative, the Sabin Institute, the European Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization and Lions Clubs International. WHO/Europe will present the team's conclusions and recommendations to the Ministry and continue working with the Italian authorities to accelerate action towards elimination.