In a follow-up on the measles outbreak in Europe, 35 deaths have been reported to include 31 in Romania, two in Italy, one in Portugal and one in Germany.
“Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “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. Working closely with health authorities in all European affected countries is our priority to control the outbreaks and maintain high vaccination coverage for all sections of the population.”
The European Region has been progressing towards measles elimination. A total of 37 countries have interrupted endemic transmission, according to the assessment of the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination based on 2015 reporting. However, remaining pockets of low immunization coverage allow the highly contagious virus to spread among those who choose not to vaccinate, do not have equitable access to vaccines or cannot be protected through vaccination due to underlying health conditions.
In response, several countries are adopting measures, such as school-entry checks, to increase coverage rates for routine vaccinations against measles and other diseases. WHO recommends that every eligible child receive 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine. It also encourages adults who are not fully immunized, or who are not sure of their immunity status, to get vaccinated.
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