European Immunization Week in Azerbaijan dedicated to maintaining progress in disease prevention
Azerbaijan is among the 21 Member States of the WHO European Region that eliminated endemic transmission of measles, and one of the 20 that eliminated endemic transmission of rubella as of 2014, according to the recent assessment of the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella elimination (RVC). To achieve this important milestone, the country has prioritized immunization, offering routine vaccines to all and responding to outbreaks, such as the 2013 measles outbreak following importation of the virus.
European Immunization Week provides an opportunity for every Member State in the Region to take stock of their immunization performance and address areas in need of improvement. Azerbaijan utilized the campaign not only to highlight its measles and rubella elimination status, but also to proactively address the RVC's recommendations for the country to maintain elimination.
Acting on RVC recommendations
Rubella surveillance remains suboptimal in several countries of the European Region. The RVC therefore urged all Member States to improve the quality of rubella surveillance but also that of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
Azerbaijan's national health authorities are working to strengthen CRS surveillance in line with WHO guidelines and the RVC's recommendation. During EIW, a national training on CRS surveillance for physicians and epidemiologists was conducted, with attendance of representatives from the Republican Centre of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Ministry of Health, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO Country Office.
The training introduced new national CRS surveillance guidelines developed with technical support from the CDC and WHO. Subnational trainings will take place in May and June, 2016?.
Further EIW activities included a conference on immunization for the staff of local health authorities, including the heads of children's polyclinics, and an assessment visit by Ministry of Health and the WHO Country Office to polyclinics to observe the vaccination process.
The proactive approach of Azerbaijan's public health authorities sets a best practice example for other Member States. High-quality surveillance for CRS significantly contributes to the documentation and verification of rubella elimination where this has been achieved.