PAHO/WHO, Sint Maarten – During the launching of the 12th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) urged people to protect themselves against measles, rubella and other vaccine-preventable diseases, in view of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the need to protect achievements in disease elimination in the Americas.
Intensified international travel and population movement associated with mass events such as the World Cup increase the risk of imported cases of measles, rubella and other vaccine-preventable diseases. For this reason, PAHO/WHO is calling on travellers to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines and, if not, to get vaccinated against measles and rubella at least two weeks before traveling.
The theme of this year’s initiative was, “Vaccination: Your best shot!”, is a call to action for people to protect themselves against vaccine-preventable diseases in the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to attract some 600,000 visitors from around the world. Of the 32 countries with teams participating in the World Cup, 19 reported measles cases in 2013.
In the Americas, endemic transmission of measles was interrupted in 2002 and transmission of rubella in 2009. However, measles continues to circulate elsewhere in the world, and some countries in the Americas have reported imported cases.
“Vaccination Week in the Americas has been instrumental in our region’s becoming the first in the world to eliminate measles and rubella,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “These viruses continue to circulate in other regions of the world. The risk of reintroduction of these diseases is especially high during mass-attendance events such as the 2014 World Cup. Getting vaccinated against measles and rubella is your best shot to protect yourself, your family and all the people of the Americas.”
The countries of the Americas have been world leaders in the elimination or reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases. The region was the first to eradicate smallpox (in 1971) and to eliminate polio (in 1991). Diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough have been significantly reduced, thanks to vaccination rates that average 93% among children under 1 year.
Vaccination Week in the Americas began in 2003 as part of a regional response to the last endemic outbreak of measles in the Americas, on the border of Venezuela and Colombia in 2002. Since then, the initiative has taken the benefits of vaccines to more than 465 million people of all ages.