Regular vaccination of migrant population protects most vulnerable and helps Turkey maintain momentum towards measles elimination
By adopting the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020, Turkey reaffirmed its commitment with all other Member States to eliminating measles and rubella from the WHO European Region. In line with this commitment, Turkey strives to provide every person in the country with high-quality, safe and affordable vaccines and immunization services. This effort includes, as mandated by Turkish law, the provision of regular and supplementary vaccination to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants residing in the country.
As of 20 April 2017, according to the Directorate General of Migration Management of Turkey, 2.98 million registered Syrian people under temporary protection are living in Turkey. This represents about 4% of the total Syrian population. Children under 5 constitute a quarter of the total Syrian child population under temporary protection.
Civil unrest and war in recent years have interrupted vaccination programmes in some refugees’ and migrants’ home countries. This leaves the youngest people in this vulnerable situation at particular risk of contracting any vaccine-preventable diseases circulating in their host countries. This includes measles, which is still an endemic disease in Turkey.
An effort that began in 2011 continues in 2017
The Ministry of Health of Turkey has conducted several targeted vaccination campaigns for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants since 2011. All childhood vaccinations – including the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the oral polio vaccine – are provided to the beneficiaries within camps, outside camps and at borders. The vaccines are provided by the family physicians of the respective locations in line with Turkey’s national immunization schedule.
As part of the national and subnational vaccination campaigns conducted by the Ministry of Health, migrant populations are also vaccinated in streets, schools and workplaces.
Since 2013, 350 000 Syrian children from 6 months to 15 years of age have been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine both within and outside the camps. In addition, a total of 2.5 million MMR doses have been provided in streets, schools and workplaces in high-risk districts of Turkey as part of supplementary immunization activities.
European Immunization Week 2017
European Immunization Week 2017, which takes place on 24–30 April, offers an additional opportunity to reach vulnerable populations living in Turkey. Activities are now being organized in all 81 provinces of the country, including outreach communication campaigns using posters and other European Immunization Week materials. Follow-up vaccination campaigns are also being conducted.