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Europe Unlikely to Meet Measles Goals: Report

Suboptimum vaccination rates cast doubt on ability to eliminate disease by 2010

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Hope is fading for the elimination of measles in Europe by 2010, as a new report reveals lower-than-optimal vaccination rates in five countries where outbreaks have occurred in recent years.

Eighty-five percent of the more than 12,000 measles cases reported on the continent during the years 2006 and 2007 occurred in Germany, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The cases mostly involved children who were never or incompletely vaccinated, according to a report published online in The Lancet.

Researchers at State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, found that vaccination rates for the two-dose preventative in these countries were below the 95 percent minimum recommended by the World Health Organization. Reaching and maintaining that level over the long-term is considered vital for measles elimination.

"The suboptimum vaccination coverage raises serious doubts that the goal of elimination by 2010 can be attained," the report's authors concluded. "Achievement and maintenance of optimum vaccination coverage, and improved surveillance, are the cornerstones of the measles elimination plan for the Europe."

While most of the 12,132 European cases occurred in children, almost a fifth were incurred by people age 20 or older during the two years studied. Only 7 measles-related deaths were noted. Most of the cases originated in the country they were reported in, although 210 cases were "imported" from either Asia or another European country.

"The more pressing question is how much measles does Europe export to countries with poor health systems and high fatality rates," wrote Jacques R. Kremer and Claude P. Muller of the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella in Sante, Luxembourg, in an accompanying comment in the journal. "Importations of measles virus from Europe have already triggered several outbreaks in South America. ... Rich countries need to be responsible for avoiding cases by implementation of high vaccination coverage, to make it the privilege of resource-poor countries not to worry about reintroductions from Europe."

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The Immunization Action Coalition has more about immunizations.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Jan. 7, 2009

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