The WHO European Region continues to experience ongoing measles outbreaks, with 35 deaths in the last year attributed to the disease, indicating that better control efforts remain necessary, according to a press release.
“Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, PhD, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in the release. “We are very concerned that although a safe, effective and affordable vaccine is available, measles remains a leading cause of death among children worldwide, and unfortunately Europe is not spared.”
Since June 2016, Italy has seen more than 3,300 measles cases and two deaths, whereas in Romania, 31 deaths have been reported. Although the region has been working toward measles elimination, vaccination gaps remain in areas where people choose not to receive the vaccine, do not have equitable access to immunization or cannot be protected owing to other health conditions.
Therefore, several European countries plan to implement additional control measures, like school-entry checks, that will increase coverage rates for routine vaccinations against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. WHO recommends that every eligible child should receive two doses of measles-containing vaccine, and encourages unimmunized adults to receive the vaccination.
Experts from WHO Regional Office for Europe collaborated with regional public health officials, the Italian Institute of Health and researchers from a measles and rubella laboratory in June to decide on further strategies, such as strengthening disease surveillance and communication, to improve vaccination coverage among vulnerable populations.
“Working closely with health authorities in all European affected countries is our priority to control outbreaks and maintain high vaccination coverage for all sections of the populations,” Jakab said.
Jakab is the WHO Regional Director for Europe.