Cross-border collaboration to eliminate measles and rubella

Medical University Innsbruck

Participants of a meeting on measles and rubella elimination for German-speaking countries and regions, 12–13 February, Innsbruck, Austria

Most countries in the WHO European Region have interrupted endemic transmission of measles and rubella, but some others scattered across the Region still have large recurrent or persisting outbreaks and/or surveillance that is not of the quality required to demonstrate disease interruption.

To facilitate the sharing of good practice and lessons learned across countries, WHO/Europe supported the organization of a meeting of German-speaking countries and regions to review and discuss:

  • the epidemiological situation of measles and rubella;
  • the organization and function of national verification committees for measles and rubella elimination (NVCs);
  • the evidence needed to demonstrate interruption and the process of verifying the elimination of these diseases;
  • possibilities for collaboration between NVCs, and
  • ideas and experiences related to electronic immunization registries, and advocacy and communication, particularly for European Immunization Week.

The meeting, held on 12–13 January 2017 in Innsbruck, Austria, was hosted by the Division of Hygiene and Medical Microbiology of the Medical University of Innsbruck with support from WHO/Europe and the Austrian Society for Hygiene, Microbiology and Preventive Medicine.

Participants included members of the NVCs of Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland, responsible persons for measles and rubella control in Liechtenstein and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano (Italy), public health officials, paediatricians, experts from WHO/Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the chair of the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC).

The countries represented share a common language at the national or regional level, and have similar practices in surveillance and immunization data collection and reporting. As of the 2015 and 2016 RVC meeting reports, all of the countries, except Luxembourg, face challenges in eliminating measles and/or rubella.

Background

The RVC is an independent expert body with the mission of verifying the elimination of measles and rubella in the Region. The RVC meets annually to determine the status of measles and rubella elimination based on annual status update reports and other documents submitted by the NVCs. In this context, the RVC also advises NVCs on the process for collecting and analysing data for verification.

Outcomes

The meeting facilitated the sharing of ideas and information between NVCs, WHO and other stakeholders. It also offered the opportunity for NVC members to view the annual status update reports of fellow German-speaking countries and to obtain further clarifications on their completion. Improving the documentation of surveillance data with greater focus on molecular surveillance and better linkage of epidemiologic and laboratory data is considered crucial.

All participants agreed on the importance of maintaining public confidence in vaccines, including through information campaigns, proactive collaboration with media and capacity-building in communication for health workers.