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WHO Urges Nations In SE Asia To Take “Accelerated Measures” Against measles

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New Delhi [India]: The World Health Organisation has urged all nations in South-East Asia to take urgent and accelerated measures against measles which is on the rise with nearly nine million children having missed vaccination against the disease in the past two years.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, in a press release said, “The strong political commitment, determination, focused and concerted efforts, and community support, that marked our efforts for polio elimination, are now urgently needed to stop and prevent measles outbreaks and accelerate efforts to eliminate the disease.”

She made the remarks on the 12th anniversary of the last case of poliovirus in the South-East Asia region.

According to the press release issued by World Health Organisation, measles vaccination coverage has reached an all-time high of 94 per cent coverage for the first dose and 83 per cent coverage for the second dose by 2019. It had reduced to 86 per cent and 76 per cent respectively in 2021, leaving nine million children unvaccinated for measles and around 5.3 million children partially vaccinated against the disease.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh stressed that the world needs to close immunity gaps for higher impact. She stressed that nations must ensure adequate investment in laboratory-supported case-based surveillance for timely detection of measles cases and outbreaks to have an appropriate response against the disease. She lauded the nations in the region for their continued efforts against polio.

According to the press release, the region reported the last case of poliovirus from Howrah in West Bengal. She stressed that all nations have been taking several initiatives to revive and resume childhood immunisation coverage and surveillance activities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Poonam Kheterpal Singh said that nations need to sustain the efforts and further strengthen to maintain the polio-free status of the region.

“The decline in vaccine coverage, and interruptions and delays in immunisation and surveillance activities due to COVID-19, leaves the Region susceptible to large outbreaks, and off track for the 2023 target of measles and rubella elimination,” Dr Khetrapal said.

“We need to urgently close immunity gaps with tailored approaches for the highest impact, such as through catch-up campaigns, and strengthening routine immunisation with better microplanning,” she added.

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