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UNICEF reaffirms vital importance of two-dose measles control strategy

NEW DELHI, 9 NOVEMBER 2009 – In an article published today, UNICEF reiterated the vital importance of administering a second dose of measles vaccine, which together with improved routine immunization has averted 3.4 million deaths between 2000 and 2007 in countries with previously high measles burden. The article is included in a special issue of Indian Pediatrics dedicated almost entirely to measles immunization in India, the only country that has not adopted a two-dose measles control strategy.

The article notes that India is in the process of introducing into its childhood vaccination programme a second dose of measles vaccination, which could save an estimated 123,000 child deaths annually.

“It is great that India is addressing suffering and avoidable measles deaths among the poorest and most vulnerable children in the country,” said Dr. Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF Senior Health Specialist, speaking from New York. “Many other countries have successfully started implementing a second dose of measles vaccination in recent years with a sharp drop in measles related mortality.”

Measles is one of the most infectious viral diseases but can be prevented by vaccination. However, adequate vaccination requires two doses of measles vaccine, which is usually delivered through mass vaccination campaigns and/or an age-based immunisation schedule.

“Although Indian immunization performance has improved over the past few years, more challenges remain, including introduction of a second dose of measles vaccine,” said Dr. Panna Choudhury, President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, which publishes Indian Pediatrics.

In November 2008, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization, the principal advisory body to World Health Organization (WHO), recommended that all children should receive two doses of measles vaccine: the first dose during routine vaccination programme and the second dose either through routine services or through mass campaigns.

 “India should act without delay, to implement measles mortality reduction as recently recommended by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI). This is an opportunity and an obligation for our community,” said Professor Jacob John, past president, Indian Academy of Pediatrics. “The Government of India has accepted this recommendation and the Immunisation Division is currently making plans to implement it.”

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance worldwide. The Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 600 million children in more than 60 countries helping reduce measles deaths by 74 per cent globally and 89 per cent in Africa (compared to 2000).  

UNICEF video and high-resolution photography for media organizations is available at: http://www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Visit: www.indianpediatrics.net

For further information, please contact: 

Dr. Panna Choudhury, President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics,
Email: pannachoudhury@gmail.com

Dr. Piyush Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, Indian Pediatrics,
Tel: + 91-98-9811597172;
Email: prof.piyush.gupta@gmail.com

Angela Walker, Communication Chief, UNICEF India,
Tel: + 91-98-18106093;
Email: awalker@unicef.org

Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India,
Tel: + 91-98-18105861;
Email: gmaster@unicef.org

Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer (Media), UNICEF India,
Tel: + 91-98-9186-1445;
Email: ssarkar@unicef.org




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