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Measles and Rubella Elimination Campaign Kicks Off in Armenia

© UNICEF/Armenia 2007/Emil Sahakyan
(from left) UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett, Galina Vishnevskaya of Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation at the launch of the measles and rubella campaign in Armenia.

YEREVAN, 1 October 2007Over 1 million people aged 6-27 will be immunized against measles and rubella between 1-13 October in Armenia during the mass immunization campaign that has been officially kicked off today in Yerevan by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation and other partners.

Approximately 3,000 vaccination centers equipped for the campaign have opened at policlinics, rural primary health facilities, schools and universities across the country with about 3,500 health workers mobilized to ensure each eligible person gets the vaccine.

The measles and rubella vaccine is provided to children at twelve months as part of the standard immunization schedule. However, this campaign targets those who may not have received the vaccination in the mid and late 90's when the basic immunization programme in Armenia was not as strong as it is now.

"Having a strong basic immunization programme in place is one of the most cost-effective and powerful tools to guarantee a child's future health", said Sheldon Yett, the UNICEF Armenia Representative."Campaigns such as this, can never replace the importance of a strong, well financed and effective basic immunization programme. However, this campaign will help ensure that no one falls through the immunization net."  

UNICEF together with WHO, and other partners such as the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation, Vivacell Telecom, the Millennium Armenian Children's Vaccination Fund has been actively supporting Armenia's measles and rubella campaign through the provision of vaccines and other supplies and through support for social mobilization activities.

In particular, UNICEF delivered about 1,500,000 doses of measles and rubella combined vaccine, 1,500,000 auto-disable syringes to ensure safe injections, a cold room, 97 refrigerators, and 3,500 vaccine carriers  and other key items for the campaign. UNICEF also provided technical assistance in the development and implementation of social mobilization and awareness raising activities, helping to shape key messages for target groups, design posters and flyers, including those featuring UNICEF Armenia Goodwill Ambassador, singer Alla Levonyan.

Today, Armenia is joining the ranks of many other countries in this region that are implementing measles and rubella campaigns as part of a concentrated effort to reduce outbreaks of these diseases.

In Armenia elimination of measles and rubella remains a public health priority and is part of the national public health strategy. The last measles outbreak was reported in the country in 2004-2005, when over 4 000 people got infected with this disease. 

"Thankfully, and due to the concerted efforts of the Ministry of Health, Armenia has been relatively successful in ensuring children receive full and timely vaccinations. However, evidence from other countries in the world is clear. Without substantial and sustained national budgetary commitments to public health, this high rate of coverage may not be maintained and outbreaks in disease that otherwise would have been prevented, may not be," Yett said. 

Measles claims a staggering 30 per cent of all vaccine-preventable deaths worldwide, and globally kills more children than any other vaccine-preventable disease. 

Rubella is a major cause of birth defects in children and if contracted during pregnancy, the disease can cause miscarriage or the birth of an infant with severe birth defects, including deafness, blindness, mental retardation or heart disease. 

For more information, please contact:

Emil Sahakyan, Communication Officer

Tel.: (374 10) 52 35 46, 56 64 97




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