Progress in measles and rubella elimination in Iran

Abdoulreza Esteghamati, Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, Seyed Mohsen Zahraei, Mohammad Nasr Dadras, Armin Rashidi, Frank Mahoney
Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 2007, 26 (12): 1137-41

BACKGROUND: Measles is a leading cause of death worldwide because of vaccine preventable diseases. Prevention and control of measles and rubella is a high priority for the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2002, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education in Iran developed a comprehensive strategy to eliminate measles and rubella. This strategy included recommendations for a mass immunization campaign for all persons between the ages of 5-25 years with measles-rubella (MR) vaccine. This report reviews the results of this campaign and progress in the elimination of measles and rubella in Iran.

METHODS: Measles vaccination coverage, supplemental immunization activities, surveillance data, and results from a nationwide serosurvey were reviewed.

RESULTS: Between 1980 and 2005, vaccination coverage ranged from 38%-99% with sustained high coverage (> or =94-99%) for the past decade. Despite high coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine (MCV1) and the introduction of a second dose of measles in 1984, case counts remained high between 1980 and 2005 with a median case count of 4414. In December 2003, a nationwide immunization campaign was conducted targeting 33,579,082 people between the ages of 5 and 25 years with a combined measles and rubella vaccine; 98% of the target population was vaccinated. A postcampaign serosurvey conducted in 2004 revealed >97.4% of the population aged between 5 and 40 years had immunity to measles and rubella. Case-based surveillance for measles identified 3 children with laboratory confirmed disease in 2004, 35 in 2005, and 42 children in 2006. Most confirmed disease occurred in immigrant communities or communities with migrant populations from neighboring counties with ongoing measles outbreaks. Surveillance for rubella was established after the campaign and identified 37 patients with confirmed disease in the follow-up period.

CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of a comprehensive strategy for measles elimination in Iran has remarkably reduced the incidence of measles and rubella to <1 case per 1,000,000. Sporadic transmission continues to occur, particularly in areas with immigrant and nomadic populations.


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