India receives ‘Measles and Rubella Champion’ Award

GS Paper II & III

News Excerpt: 

Recently, India has been bestowed with the prestigious Measles and Rubella Champion Award by the Measles and Rubella Partnership at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington D.C., USA.

About the Measles and Rubella Partnership:

  • The Measles & Rubella Partnership is a global initiative to lead and coordinate efforts to achieve a world without measles and rubella.
  • The American Red Cross, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization lead the Measles & Rubella Partnership (M&RP).
  • The M&RP aims to achieve a world without measles and rubella by:  
    • Supporting countries to raise coverage of vaccines; 
    • Fund, plan, implement and monitor quality supplementary campaigns; 
    • Investigate outbreaks and provide technical and financial support to strengthen immunization delivery; 
    • Support a global laboratory network for measles and rubella.
  • Since 2001, the Partnership has helped to raise measles vaccination coverage to 83% globally and reduced measles deaths by 82%. 
  • In 2022, the M&RP supported vaccination campaigns in 44 countries that reached more than 115 million children with bundled vaccines, operational costs or technical assistance.
  • The M&RP supports the implementation of the Measles & Rubella Strategic Framework 2021-2030 (MSRF 2021-2030).
    • It aims to provide a high-level framework that will guide the development of regional and national strategies and operational plans. 
    • The MSRF 2021-2030 envisions “A world free from measles and rubella”.

Significance of the Award:

  • This accolade celebrates India's unwavering commitment to public health and its outstanding leadership in curbing the spread of these infectious diseases among children. 
  • It recognizes India for providing regional leadership to the measles & rubella elimination programme by using ‘measles as a tracer’ to strengthen routine immunization under the country's Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).
  • The award recognises that India has demonstrated remarkable progress in reducing measles and rubella cases and preventing outbreaks through a series of comprehensive interventions.
  • The award is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the country's frontline health workers, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and communities across the nation.

Steps taken to prevent the Measles and Rubella (MR) in India:

  • Measles and Rubella are vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) and the MR Vaccine has been part of India’s UIP since 2017.
  • The government of India’s proactive MR vaccination campaign in high-risk areas and innovative strategies to reach underserved populations, robust surveillance systems, and effective public awareness initiatives have played a key role in safeguarding the health and well-being of its population.
  • Measures that have strengthened India’s MR elimination strategy:  
    • The development and implementation of the National Strategic Plan for MR elimination; 
    • Introduction of rubella-containing vaccine into the routine immunization programme; 
    • Launching a nationwide MR supplementary immunization catch-up campaign; 
    • Transitioning from outbreak-based surveillance to case-based acute fever and rash surveillance; 
    • Expansion of the MR Laboratory network to 27 labs across the country and implementation of the Roadmap plan for MR Elimination across the country.  

The Measles-Rubella (MR) 2020 program:

  • It had the goal to eliminate measles by 2020, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was revised to 2023.
  • MR campaign targets around 41 crore children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years (covering ⅓ of the total population of the country) followed by 2 doses in routine immunization at 9-12 months and 16-24 months.

Current Status of Measles and Rubella in India:

  • Measles cases dropped by 62% between 2017 and 2021, from 10.4 to 4 cases per million population, while rubella cases decreased by 48%, from 2.3 to 1.2 cases per million population.
  • India is conducting three rounds of Intensified Mission Indradhanush 5.0 (IMI 5.0) under the theme “A big leap towards measles and Rubella Elimination”, to identify and vaccinate all unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children till five years of age, from August 2023.
  • India is targeting a vaccination coverage of 95% with two doses of MR vaccine to achieve measles and rubella elimination by 2023. 

About Measles and Rubella disease:

About Measles: 

  • Measles is caused by a single-stranded, enveloped RNA virus with 1 serotype. 
  • It is classified as a member of the genus Morbillivirus in the Paramyxoviridae family. 
  • Humans are the only natural hosts of the measles virus.
  • It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. 
  • Measles infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. 
  • Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and a rash all over the body.
  • Measles can affect anyone but is most common in children.

Key symptoms of Rubella:

  • In children, the rubella remains usually mild, with symptoms including a rash, low fever (<39°C), nausea and mild conjunctivitis. 
  • The rash usually starts on the face and neck before progressing down the body and lasts 1–3 days. Swollen lymph glands behind the ears and neck are the most characteristic clinical features. 
  • Once a person is infected, the virus spreads throughout the body in about 5-7 days. 
  • When a woman is infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy, she has a 90% chance of passing the virus on to her fetus. 
  • In unvaccinated pregnant women, rubella can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or multiple birth defects that together are called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).

The overlap of Measles and Rubella:

  • Health problems caused by these diseases overlap. Each of them can cause brain damage, deafness, and blindness.
  • Measles can cause pneumonia and diarrhoea, while rubella and congenital rubella syndrome can lead to heart disorders.
  • Measles and rubella can cause serious illness, birth defects, and death.

Way Forward:

India should continue its proactive vaccination campaigns, surveillance efforts, and public awareness initiatives to eliminate measles and rubella. Strengthening routine immunization under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), expanding the MR Laboratory network, and implementing the Roadmap plan for MR Elimination are crucial. Collaboration with international partners and continued support for the Measles & Rubella Partnership will be key to achieving the goal of a world free from measles and rubella.

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