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Azerbaijan: Mass immunization campaign against measles and rubella

Around three million people to be immunized as part of national campaign to eliminate measles and rubella developed by the Ministry of Health, in  collaboration with the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation, Center for Disease Control (USA), USAID, United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO)

BAKU, 24 February, 2006 – Around three million children and young people aged 7-23 nationwide and 7-29 in Baku will be immunized against measles and rubella between 27 February and 13 March in Azerbaijan. 

The main goal of the mass immunization campaign is to cover all children, adolescents and young people who are susceptible to measles and rubella, and interrupt the transmission of the diseases in Azerbaijan.  

More than 6,600 vaccination centres are being equipped in readiness for the campaign and 4,800 health workers are being mobilised. Mobile teams are already fanning out across the country to find those who have never been immunised before or those who live in areas that are hard to reach.

The campaign is a key part of Azerbaijan's measles elimination and congenital rubella infection prevention strategy. The Ministry of Health is leading the campaign and is responsible for its planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring.

“It is unacceptable for children to suffer from life-long birth defects such as deafness and blindness from congenital rubella syndrome when we have an effective, safe and inexpensive vaccine,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan. “Each child can receive a combined rubella/measles vaccine, as part of routine immunization. Immunization is the right of every child.”

“The needs of children are ignored at a great cost to the well being of society, and the needs of children in Azerbaijan and throughout the world are urgent,” said Maestro Mstislav Rostropovich, the world famous cellist and conductor, and founder of the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation, who will kick off the campaign on Monday. “Perhaps each of us can do only small part for the health of children, but collectively our efforts are beginning to make a difference. There is so much more to do, and we must do it now.”

UNICEF, with the support of the Center for Disease Control, has provided $1.8 million for the Government campaign -- $1.65 million for supplies and $150,000 for social mobilization, including training, briefings and workshops for national and local partners. UNICEF has also provided technical support in planning, supply procurement, cold chain maintenance and communication.

WHO has provided technical assistance in planning and reviewing the different aspects of the campaign at national and district levels on safety immunization practices, vaccine coverage, surveillance, training, development of training materials and an adverse events following immunization (AEFI) surveillance system.

The Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation has provided technical support in planning, supply procurement, cold chain maintenance, trainings of health personnel and social mobilization efforts, and financial support amounting to $1.1 million.

Measles kills more children throughout the world than any other vaccine-preventable disease. Children who survive measles can still be affected by a range of permanent disabilities. Between 30 and 40 million children catch measles every year.  In 2003, approximately 530,000 children died from the disease, often from secondary complications related to pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition.

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 more information:
Ayna Mollazade, Communication Officer, UNICEF Azerbaijan
Tel: (+ 994 12) 492 301, Email: amollazade@unicef.org

Angela Hawke, Communication Officer, UNICEF CEE/CIS
Tel: (+ 4122) 909 5433, Email: ahawke@unicef.org
Soltan Mammadov, Director, Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation
Tel/Fax: 99412 4368277 Email: vrfaz@vrf.baku.az

Sergey Mukomolov, MR Mass Immunization Campaign, WHO/EURO
Tel: 99412 498 9888 (ext 160),Email: s.mukomolov@mail.ru

Vusala Allahverdiyeva, Vaccine Preventable Diseases
and Immunization Officer, WHO/Azerbaijan
Tel: 99412 498 9888 (ext 160), Email: vja@who.baku.az




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