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Low vaccination rates jeopardise measles elimination

Wednesday January 7th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood

Hopes of eliminating measles in Europe by 2010 may not be realised, European experts warned today.

Some 12,132 cases occurred in Europe during 2006 and 2007, according to the new analysis.

The cases were mostly in unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated children, say Dr Mark Muscat of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues. The team took figures from 32 European countries. They found that 85 per cent of these cases occurred in Romania, Germany, UK, Switzerland, and Italy.

Writing on the website of the Lancet, the authors say that eliminating measles will be hampered by "suboptimum vaccination rates".

The World Health Organisation estimates that a minimum 95 per cent vaccination coverage with two doses is necessary for measles elimination. But several countries report lower rates of coverage. The UK rate for two year old children is below 85 per cent. Rates in Germany are the lowest, at around 70 per cent.

Countries with no cases, such as Finland, "report consistently high measles vaccination coverage for long periods", the authors write, concluding: "Achievement and maintenance of optimum vaccination coverage, and improved surveillance, are the cornerstones of the measles elimination plan for the Europe."

Immunologists from the World Health Organisation write in a commentary that identifying the final hurdles to measles elimination is essential. They highlight the export of measles from Europe to countries with poor health systems and high fatality rates.

"Rich countries need to be responsible for avoiding cases by implementation of high vaccination coverage, to make it the privilege of resource-poor countries not to worry about re-introductions from Europe," they insist.

Muscat, M. et al. Measles in Europe: an epidemiological assessment. The Lancet, published online January 7, 2009.

Kremer, J. R. and Muller, C. P. Measles in Europe - there is room for improvement. The Lancet, published online January 7, 2009.

Tags: Child Health | Europe | Flu & Viruses

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