In response to a measles outbreak, Tajikistan initiated a mass measles vaccination campaign on 15 May 2017, targeting almost 2 million children aged 1–9 years in the country. The outbreak, which began in May 2016, has caused over 400 confirmed cases to date.
International support for an urgent outbreak response
In response to the increasing number of confirmed measles cases, the Measles and Rubella Initiative, WHO/Europe and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are providing support for supplementary immunization activities, measles and rubella vaccines, communication and social mobilization activities, independent monitoring and post-campaign coverage evaluation.
Call to action
The outbreak of measles started in May 2016 in one district and has since expanded to 31 of 65 districts/cities, including the capital, Dushanbe. The outbreak in Tajikistan is one of several ongoing outbreaks in the WHO European Region. The country's decision to initiate the mass immunization campaign comes in the wake of a call on 28 March 2017 by WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, for policy-makers, health-care workers and parents “to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunization coverage”.
Serious threat to Region-wide elimination
Measles is one of the most contagious infections and among the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses. However, it can be prevented with safe, effective and inexpensive vaccines.
All 53 Member States of the Region include the measles-containing vaccine in their routine immunization schedules and all have committed to the goal of eliminating both measles and rubella through the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020. The current resurgence in measles cases points to persistent gaps in immunization coverage at the subnational level that must be addressed in order for the Region to achieve this goal.