The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced Sri Lanka and the Maldives to be the first two countries with no case of measles and rubella. This achievement is made before the deadline which was to end in 2023. The health agency has officially declared this statement this Wednesday.
Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) in South East Asia says that this news is encouraging and highlights the power of combined efforts. It is also an example for other countries to completely eradicate these two diseases like Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Right now when the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the world, battling with other diseases along with coronavirus seems challenging. But he governments of Sri Lanka and the Maldives didn’t lose hope and continue to work along with international agencies working on measles and rubella eradication program.
Typically, this declaration of being free from disease is made when there is no report or evidence of any endemic transmission of the pathogen for three consecutive years. This is only achievable with a high power surveillance system.
The last measles outbreak in the Maldives was recorded back in 2009 and rubella in 2015. On the other side, the last disease outbreak of measles in Sri Lanka was reported in 2016 and the rubella outbreak was reported in 2017.
The World Health Organization acknowledges the efforts of all countries in South Asia to work on measles and rubella eradication program. Almost all of them have introduced a comprehensive vaccination program, making sure all children receive them.
Under this immunization program, the first dose vaccine is 88% successfully covered and the second dose is 76%. Since 2017, more than 500 million children in South Asia are vaccinated for these two diseases that are highly prevalent in this region.
In 2019, there were 11 countries that were in the World Health Organization’s target list of making measles and rubella free by 2023. These countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, North Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Among these, the Maldives and Sri Lanka have successfully eradicated measles and rubella three years prior to the target year. While Bhutan, East Timor, and North Korea have also achieved success in reducing measles cases.
This declaration has come forward during the coronavirus pandemic which has covered the whole world even the United States.
The anti-vaxxer movements have opposed vaccinations while doing big propaganda against them. Even the internet is full of conspiracy theories that are being circulated all around the world.
The coronavirus pandemic has badly hit the healthcare units especially in Southeast Asia which has largely affected the immunization and vaccine surveillance systems. This declaration of measles and rubella free countries will motivate other Asian countries to revive and upgrade their healthcare systems; thus effectively work on coronavirus prevention as well as vaccination programs.