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Massive Measles Vaccination Campaign Wraps Up in Pakistan

Protecting more than 34 million children against a deadly disease

March 17, 2008

The final phase of a national vaccination campaign to protect the children of Pakistan against measles is being launched today by the government of Pakistan with support from the Measles Initiative. The campaign, which will take place between March 17 and April 3, aims to reach more than 34 million children in the province of Punjab, including the capital city, Islamabad.

This phase marks the conclusion of a year-long, multi-part campaign that will provide measles vaccines to more than 65 million children, between 9 months and 13 years, throughout the country – marking a significant step toward the global goal of reducing measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010 (compared to 2000). Prior to the health campaign, there were more than 1 million cases and 20,000 deaths from measles and its complications each year in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is one of the most important countries in the fight against measles. With its large population, challenging terrain and low immunization coverage, many Pakistani children are at risk of this disease,” said Andrea Gay, executive director of children’s health at the United Nations Foundation. “Now, as a result of the high-quality campaign being conducted by the government with its partners, millions more children will be protected against this deadly disease.”

The vaccination campaign, which began in March 2007, has already reached more than 31 million children, more than 97 percent of the targeted population to date. In addition to measles vaccinations, children in remote areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were vaccinated against polio.

The health campaign is being led by the government of Pakistan, with financial and technical support from the Measles Initiative—a partnership led by the American Red Cross, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization, with significant support from the GAVI Alliance and other groups.

“It takes a great, collaborative effort among many partners to plan, design and implement a campaign of this scale,” said David Meltzer, senior vice president for International Services of the American Red Cross. “Thankfully, we have seen tremendous support and commitment at all levels, including political and religious leaders, community organizers, teachers, and health workers, to ensure the success of this campaign.”

Over the next two weeks, more than 45,000 thousand health workers and volunteers will set up health posts at schools and other facilities. Field staff from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are playing a major role in the planning and implementation of the campaign and disease surveillance. Health workers and volunteers from the Pakistan Red Crescent Society are also helping to mobilize communities to make sure there is a high turnout among vulnerable populations.

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The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns worldwide. To date, the Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 400 million children in 50 countries helping reduce measles deaths by more than 68% globally and 91% in Africa (compared to 2000). To learn more or make a donation, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.

Other key partners in the fight against measles include the GAVI Alliance, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Becton, Dickinson and Company, the Izumi Foundation, the Vodafone Group Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and countries and governments affected by measles.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Michael Oko, American Red Cross, Washington, DC, +1 202 303 6820

Steven Stewart, CDC, Atlanta, +1 404 639 8327

Jessica Malter, UNICEF, New York, +1 212 326 7412

Amy DiElsi, UN Foundation, Washington, DC, +1 202 419 3230

Hayatee Hasan, WHO, Geneva, +41 22 791 2103

 
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