WHO urges investments to stop measles transmission in Europe

WHO/Malin Bring

The first-ever WHO Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for a measles emergency was launched today to ensure financial commitment to stop the spread of this highly contagious and serious disease in the WHO European Region.

Over 120 000 measles cases were reported between August 2018 and July 2019, which is more than the total number for a 12-month period reported in the Region in over a decade. Of the Region’s 53 countries, 48 reported cases in this period.

As measles continues to circulate in the Region, a stronger response by the international community is needed. In May this year, WHO classified measles outbreaks across the Region as a Grade 2 emergency. The newly launched SRP provides a resource mobilization tool to accelerate tailored interventions in measles-affected and at-risk countries, where investments will have the greatest possible impact.

Outlining actions to interrupt outbreaks, save lives and reverse the backslide

Current capacity in WHO and in many European countries is not sufficient to control measles outbreaks and achieve the regional measles elimination goal. The SRP represents a turning point for many countries in the Region to stop measles transmission and strengthen their health systems to prevent outbreaks in the future.

The SRP covers the period of September 2019 to December 2020, to be reviewed and updated if necessary. Actions include bringing the outbreaks under control, providing safe care to patients, increasing high-level commitment, strengthening vaccine acceptance and demand, increasing preparedness and risk mitigation, and reviewing outbreak response.

The outputs of this SRP will complement and accelerate regional action to reach targets for measles elimination as defined in the European Vaccine Action Plan.

Collective, urgent action needed to control measles outbreaks in Europe and globally

Europe’s scaled-up emergency action against measles circulation is a priority, and contributes to global efforts to eliminate the disease. The SRP leverages vast WHO expertise – in epidemiology, disease surveillance, behavioural science, crisis preparedness and communication, emergency response, clinical management, and infection control – channelling it locally for strategic impact.

Key interventions by WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are prioritized and costed based on the current situation. A range of other partners will join forces for the SRP’s implementation, including the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the GAVI Alliance, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bilateral development agencies, United Nations agencies, academic institutions, WHO collaborating centres, professional associations, nongovernmental organizations and civil society.