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Turkey: 8 million children to be immunized in one month

© UNICEF/SWZK00203/Hosta

Over 8 million children to be vaccinated in Turkey in intensified campaign to eliminate measles

Having set a national target to eliminate measles by 2010, Turkey is intensifying its efforts and conducting a one-time "catch-up campaign" targeting children aged 9 months to 14 years. The aim is rapidly to achieve a high level of population immunity.

In December 2003, around 11 million schoolchildren aged 6-14 years were successfully vaccinated, an immunization coverage rate of 97%.

Now, during a month-long campaign from 25 April to 20 May, a further 8.5 million pre-school children aged 9 months to 6 years, and the remaining children under 15 years not attending school, will be targeted.

About 50 000 health care staff will work to vaccinate all eligible children nationwide. A significant reduction in the number of measles cases is expected, in a country where measles is still one of the major causes of childhood disease, disability and death.

This massive effort has been organized by the Turkish Ministry of Health in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and other relevant public institutions, with financial and technical support from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Relevant NGOs have also been involved, especially in reaching the children not attending school.

Measles remains an important cause of childhood mortality and the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in childhood, causing an estimated 530 000 deaths globally in 2003. A WHO/UNICEF measles mortality reduction strategy launched in 2000 aimed for a 50% reduction in measles deaths by 2005; an estimated 873 000 deaths were reported in 1999.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe developed and implemented a regional strategic plan for measles and congenital rubella infection in 2002. The plan clearly sets out the strategies to eliminate measles in all 52 countries of the WHO European Region by 2010.

Immunization is considered among the most cost-effective of health investments. It has a well defined target group; contact with the health system is only needed at the time of delivery; and vaccination does not require any major change of lifestyle. For example, a recent study estimated that a one-week "supplemental immunization activity" against measles carried out in Kenya in 2002 - in which 12.8 million children were vaccinated - would result in a net saving in health costs of US$ 12 million over the following 10 years; during that time it would prevent 3.85 million cases of measles and 125 000 deaths.

For more media information:

Liuba Negru, Press and Media Relations, WHO Regional Office for Europe: Tel (+45 39) 17 13 44,

Angela Hawke, UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS: (+41 22) 909 5433,

For more technical information:

Louise Gare, Technical Officer, Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunization, WHO Regional Office for Europe: (+45 39) 17 14 23,

Dragoslav Popovic, Programme Officer for Immunization, UNICEF, (+4122) 909 5547





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