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Europe Falling Short in Measles Elimination Goal

Suboptimum coverage in several countries raises doubts disease can be eradicated by 2010

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Despite 20 years of routine childhood measles vaccination in Europe, suboptimum coverage in some countries probably will prevent the continent from reaching its goal of eliminating the disease by 2010, according to an article published online Jan. 7 in The Lancet.

Mark Muscat, M.D., of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues analyzed 2006-2007 data from 32 European countries, 30 of which also supplied data about measles importation.

The researchers identified 12,132 cases, 10,329 (85 percent) of which were recorded in Romania, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Italy. In Romania, coverage of Roma children is very low (2 to 12 percent) and coverage of immigrant children is low (80 to 90 percent). Coverage in the other four countries ranges from 70 percent to less than 90 percent. The investigators also identified 210 imported cases, including 117 (56 percent) from another European country and 43 (20 percent) from Asia.

"For achievement of the measles elimination goal, awareness of the disease and commitment by decision makers and public health authorities in all European countries are essential to strengthen vaccination programs," the authors write. "WHO's strategic plan for the European region between 2005 and 2010 stipulates that vaccination programs should achieve and sustain a minimum of 95 percent coverage with two doses of vaccine, and better target susceptible individuals in the general population and high-risk groups. We need to identify barriers for measles vaccine uptake and explore methods to target vulnerable populations that have been hard to reach with standard programs."

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