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Looking Ahead to a Measles and Rubella Free World

Posted on by Robert Linkins, MPH, PhD
Robert Linkins, MPH, PhD
Robert Linkins, MPH, PhD
Chair, The Measles & Rubella Initiative
Chief, Accelerated Disease Control and Surveillance Branch, CDC Global Immunization Division

Vaccines fight diseases and save lives. Think of achievements like smallpox eradication, a polio-free world close at hand, and 2-3 million deaths prevented each year through routine immunizations. Yet despite a safe and effective vaccine against measles and rubella, these deadly viruses continue to steal the health and lives of children all over the world.

The highly contagious measles virus kills nearly 250 children each day, making it one of the leading causes of death in those under the age of 5. And rubella brings its own set of risks to health and life. Although most often a mild virus, if rubella infects a pregnant mother in her first trimester and the baby survives, she has a 90% chance of delivering a child with life-threatening birth defects referred to as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Each year, more than 100,000 babies begin life suffering from CRS.

Measles and rubella occur most often in the six countries with the fewest number of children vaccinated and protected against measles/rubella—India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo account for 75% of measles deaths and about 50% of CRS births globally.

However, not only CAN we eliminate measles and rubella, but we have done so—ridding 68 countries of measles and 59 countries of rubella—all with a $2 vaccine!

A young boy in MongoliaThe Measles & Rubella Initiative—a global partnership—coordinates efforts to achieve a world without measles, rubella, and CRS. The Initiative not only strives to eliminate measles and rubella worldwide, but also to better protect the public from other health threats. Together with national governments, we’re working to strengthen health systems, provide other health-promoting and life-saving interventions, and build strong surveillance and outbreak response systems.

Just imagine a world free of measles and rubella—what an amazing gift to leave future generations!

Posted on by Robert Linkins, MPH, PhD

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