Measles eliminated in the Americas


Sanofi Pasteur

A photo of the rubella virus, which is closely linked to measles.

Claire Goldman

Big news came in the health world this September. Measles, a disease famed for its mortality rates among young children, has been eliminated throughout the Americas, according to a press release from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“This achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella throughout the Americas,” the release stated.

Measles was one of the world’s biggest killers throughout much of the 20th century, but today it is nearly gone.

However, there is a long road until measles is eradicated, gone the way of the Smallpox. Elimination is different than eradication, where the disease is completely gone. For a disease to be eliminated, there only must be no cases originating in a region. Although, his does not guarantee safety.

“As the disease [continues] to circulate in other parts the world, some countries in the Americas experience imported cases,” the release stated.

A map of worldwide measles vaccine coverage, as of 2007.
Wikimedia Commons
A map of worldwide measles vaccine coverage, as of 2007.

In a press conference, PAHO director Carissa Etienne said: “This historic milestone would never have been possible without the strong political commitment of our Member States in ensuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines.”

However, a fight continues over vaccination in the U.S.

Some parents refuse to vaccinate, claiming measles and other vaccines are dangerous, cause autism or are a government and medical community hoax.

The Global Vaccine Safety Initiative, a World Health Organization program, said that biggest step to eradicating Measles and other preventable diseases is communicating about the safety of vaccines.

“Vaccine safety crises are rare and most are not related to problems with vaccine products. However, unfounded or not, such crises have the potential to disrupt immunization activities, and thereby affect public health,” a press release for the Initiative claims.