Mass Immunization Campaign against Measles and Rubella launched in Georgia
TBILISI, Georgia - October 20, 2008
Almost 1.1 million people aged 6 – 27 will be immunized against measles and rubella between 20 October and 2 November in Georgia, the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs announced today. The mass immunization campaign will cover the entire country to stop an outbreak of measles and rubella expected in 2010. The campaign is implemented by the National Center of Disease Control and Public Health Care and its partners – WHO, UNICEF and VRF with overall coordination of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs.
The vaccination will take place in policlinics, ambulatories, higher educational institutions and aims to achieve 95 per cent of coverage.
Routine immunization in Georgia had succeeded in reducing measles and rubella cases between 1990 and 2003. But in 2004-2005 Georgia experienced the largest measles and rubella outbreak since 1973. There were 8,391 Measles and 5,151 rubella cases in Georgia in the age group of 0-69. 34 per cent of cases were registered among the population beyond the age of 15. The outbreak likely resulted from disruption of immunization services since 1990 and failure to vaccinate.
The recent campaign aims to curb the potential future outbreaks, to attain high population immunity among the birth cohorts sustaining the bulk of transmission during the recent outbreak and to eliminate the measles and rubella by 2010.
“All the vaccination centres were equipped, in total 1922 vaccination centres and mobile immunization teams were set up and 4,000 skilled immunization workers were re-trained for the campaign,” says Mr Alexander Kvitashvili, the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. “A million doses of measles and rubella vaccines have been purchased and delivered across the country. Seminars on administration of vaccination, possible side-effects and post-vaccine complications have been conducted at national and regional levels.”
UNICEF has supported the Government campaign by supplying vaccines, auto-disable syringes, cold and safety boxes, and has led communication and social mobilization campaign to inform the society about the campaign. UNICEF has also conducted a number of seminars for media to raise their awareness about the importance of campaign.
“We expect that the campaign will effectively stop future outbreaks of measles and rubella diseases in Georgia,” says Ms Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “It will be a step towards the regional goal of elimination of measles and rubella by 2010. We are also supporting the government in sustaining routine measles and rubella coverage rate and in catch-up campaigns to reach children under the age of five who have not yet been immunized.”
Measles and rubella remain important causes of vaccine preventable disease and death in European Region of WHO. In 2005 the WHO Regional Committee for Europe adopted during its fifty fifth session a resolution on strengthening national immunization systems through measles and rubella elimination and the prevention of congenital rubella infection. As a result, the WHO Regional Office for Europe (EURO) launched a new strategic plan aiming to achieve the measles and rubella elimination targets by 2010. In order to contribute to these targets nine national supplementary activities have been conducted in the WHO European Region since 2001. Georgia immunization campaign against measles and rubella is one of these national campaigns.
Measles, the viral respiratory infection, remains the most deadly vaccine-preventable childhood disease killing over 663 people everyday and 27 people in an hour. Measles weakens the immune system and renders children very susceptible to fatal complications from diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Those that survive may suffer blindness, deafness or brain damage.
Rubella, a disease that causes a mild rash if contracted in childhood, often leads to serious and sometimes fatal complications in the unborn child when a previously uninfected woman acquires the infection early in pregnancy. Congenital rubella infections are preventable through immunization.
For further information, please contact:
Sophio Gvalia, The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs.
Maya Kurtsikidze, Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia