Amer­i­cas is first re­gion to be de­clared measles-free

Jamaica Gleaner - - HEALTH -

Dr. Carissa Eti­enne, Head of Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and Min­is­ter of Health Dr. Christo­pher Tufton pose with the val­i­da­tion cer­tifi­cate which de­clared the Amer­i­cas measles free yes­ter­day. THE RE­GION of the Amer­i­cas is the first in the world to have elim­i­nated measles, a vi­ral dis­ease that can cause se­vere health prob­lems, in­clud­ing pneu­mo­nia, blind­ness, brain swelling and even death. This achieve­ment cul­mi­nates a 22-year ef­fort in­volv­ing mass vac­ci­na­tion against measles, mumps and rubella through­out the Amer­i­cas.

The dec­la­ra­tion of measles’ elim­i­na­tion was made by the In­ter­na­tional Ex­pert Com­mit­tee for Doc­u­ment­ing and Ver­i­fy­ing Measles, Rubella, and Con­gen­i­tal Rubella Syn­drome Elim­i­na­tion in the Amer­i­cas. The an­nounce­ment came dur­ing the 55th Di­rect­ing Coun­cil of the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion/World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PAHO/WHO), which is cur­rently un­der­way and is be­ing at­tended by min­is­ters of Health from through­out the Amer­i­cas.

Measles is the fifth vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­ease to be elim­i­nated from the Amer­i­cas, after the re­gional erad­i­ca­tion of small­pox in 1971, po­liomyeli­tis in 1994, and rubella and con­gen­i­tal rubella syn­drome in 2015.

“This is a his­toric day for our re­gion and in­deed the world,” said PAHO/WHO Direc­tor Carissa F. Eti­enne. “It is proof of the re­mark­able suc­cess that can be achieved when coun­tries work to­gether in sol­i­dar­ity to­wards a com­mon goal. It is the re­sult of a com­mit­ment made more than two decades ago, in 1994, when the coun­tries of the Amer­i­cas pledged to end measles cir­cu­la­tion by the turn of the 21st cen­tury.”

MEASLES DEATHS BE­FORE VAC­CINE

Be­fore mass vac­ci­na­tion was ini­ti­ated in 1980, measles caused nearly 2.6 mil­lion an­nual deaths world­wide. In the Amer­i­cas, 101,800 deaths were at­trib­ut­able to measles be­tween 1971 and 1979. A cost-ef­fec­tive­ness study on measles elim­i­na­tion in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean has es­ti­mated that with vac­ci­na­tion, 3.2 mil­lion measles cases will have been pre­vented in the Re­gion and 16,000 deaths be­tween 2000 and 2020.

“This his­toric mile­stone would never have been pos­si­ble with­out the strong po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment of our Mem­ber States in en­sur­ing that all chil­dren have ac­cess to life-sav­ing vac­cines,” Eti­enne con­tin­ued. “It would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the gen­eros­ity and com­mit­ment of health work­ers and vol­un­teers who have worked so hard to take the ben­e­fits of vac­cines to all peo­ple, in­clud­ing those in vul­ner­a­ble and hard-to-reach com­mu­ni­ties. In­deed it would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the strong lead­er­ship and co­or­di­na­tion pro­vided by PAHO, Re­gional Of­fice for the Amer­i­cas of WHO.”

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