Global efforts increase in battle against measles and rubella

Feb. 24, 2023

The Measles Initiative was formed in 2001 to establish a global partnership to coordinate efforts to prevent child deaths and morbidity caused by the highly contagious measles virus. In 2012, the founding partners -- American Red Cross, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) – agreed to include rubella elimination under a new name, the Measles and Rubella Initiative (M&RI).

Huge strides have been made since then. The Initiative has helped deliver measles vaccines to children worldwide, contributing to saving over 56 million lives globally since its formation and invested more than US$1.2 billion in measles and rubella control activities, in partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

The impact of these investments is significant. From 2000 to 2021, the annual number of estimated measles deaths decreased 83 per cent, from 761 000 to 128 000. While much progress has been made, the goal is to collaborate with countries and partners to achieve the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) target to save another 50 million lives through access to essential vaccines by the end of 2030, with measles immunization contributing a large percentage.

Towards that end, all founding partners adopted the Measles and Rubella Strategic Framework 2030, which is fully aligned with IA2030, an ambitious global strategy to maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines.

M&RI then began a consultative process to fully integrate the strategy, coordination and action with IA2030 strategy and partnership processes. As a result of that process, the newly revitalized M&RI partnership will now be called the IA2030 Measles & Rubella Partnership (M&RP).  The transition began on January 1, 2023 and has now been formalized.

Building on years of previous work together, the membership of the IA2030 M&RP will include the original five founders and has expanded to include Gavi and BMGF as core partners.

The transition comes at a time when the world has seen the worst continued backsliding in global immunization coverage in 30 years, largely on account of the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions. It is opportune as we need to work more closely than ever before to address the nearly 40 per cent increase in the number of unvaccinated children globally.

IA2030 is in its early years, and we are among the first initiatives to transition to IA2030 management. We hope our success will serve as a precedent for other disease-specific initiatives in the coming years. This transition is a step forward to overcome current challenges and ensure all children, everywhere, are protected against measles, rubella, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

WHO release