The regional analyses focus on routine coverage of the measles-containing vaccine (MCV) rather than DPT3 as the primary indicator of progress towards the goal of 90 per cent immunization coverage nationally.

Measles immunization coverage - along with under-five mortality and infant mortality rates - is one of the key indicators used to track progress towards MDG 4. Measles is also one of the largest killers of children under five among the vaccine-preventable diseases. Routine coverage is crucial to prevent measles deaths in subsequent birth cohorts, so it is an important indicator.

On the whole, both the Latin America/Caribbean and CEE/CIS regions, as well as the industrialized countries, have achieved the goal of 90 per cent coverage against measles and are likely to sustain these levels. Middle East/North Africa is also likely to improve quickly enough to meet the target by 2010. But East Asia/Pacific will need to make significant improvements, while South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are substantially behind and would have to improve by average annual rates of increase of 3.2 percentage points and 4.1 percentage points, respectively, in order to reach 90 per cent coverage by 2010.

The broad brushstroke regional averages do not tell the whole story, however, missing out both success stories within underperforming regions and pockets of failure within high-achieving areas. Both Latin America/Caribbean and CEE/CIS, for example, include individual countries that give cause for concern, while there has been substantial progress in many countries in Africa.