Endemic transmission has been interrupted in the Americas, but measles and rubella continue to circulate in other parts of the world. More than 600,000 people are expected to attend the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. With the theme "Vaccination: Your best shot!" Vaccination Week in the Americas highlights the importance of immunization 

Washington, D.C., 24 April 2014 (PAHO/WHO) — In launching the 12th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is urging 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.

Block measles and rubella, get vaccinated!

During Vaccination Week in the Americas, April 26 to May 3, thousands of health workers and volunteers are expected to vaccinate more 63 million people of all ages against a range of diseases, including polio, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome.

The theme of this year's initiative, "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."

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 travelers 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 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.

The success of Vaccination Week in the Americas inspired the 2012 launch of World Immunization Week. More than 180 countries worldwide are set to participate in this year's World Immunization Week, April 24 to 30, with the slogan "Are you up to date?" The global campaign urges people to "Know, Check, Protect"—to know what vaccines are available, to check their own vaccination status, and to protect themselves by getting the vaccines they need.

Much more than vaccines

Health workers and volunteers from throughout the Americas are preparing for the 12th Vaccination Week in the Americas, in which 44 countries and territories are expected to participate. Countries are planning to administer vaccines against diseases including polio, measles, rubella, congenital rubella syndrome, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, influenza, yellow fever, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, bacterial pneumonia, and human papillomavirus infection.

"For the past 12 years, Vaccination Week in the Americas has opened the doors of immunization to people throughout our hemisphere, regardless of where they were born, who they are, or where they live," said Etienne. "Children, pregnant mothers, health workers and older adults today have free access to vaccines against more than 20 dangerous diseases, including polio, measles, rubella, whooping cough and influenza. These vaccines save lives and protect individuals and families from illness."

Many countries will also use Vaccination Week to carry out other preventive health measures, including deworming; Vitamin A supplementation; screening for HIV, obesity and chronic diseases; education about breastfeeding; monitoring of children's growth and development; workplace and school health activities; cycling marathons; and others.

Vaccination Week launches

The regional launch of vaccination Week in the Americas 2014 will take place in Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 26. Participants will include PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne and health officials from Uruguay, along with representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), U.N. Women, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, UNFPA, and GAVI, and the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Uruguay.

National events will also take place in Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Saint Martin and Venezuela. As in past years, binational launches are planned in the border areas of Honduras and Guatemala, Uruguay and Argentina, Argentina and Chile, Panama and Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama, and Guyana and Suriname, among others.

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.

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KEY FACTS

Measles elimination in the Americas

  • In 2002, Venezuela reported the last case of endemic transmission of measles in the Americas.
  • The Americas—with PAHO/WHO support—has become the world's first region to eliminate measles.
  • Before PAHO/WHO established the Expanded Immunization Program in 1977, more than 250,000 cases of measles and 12,000 deaths were reported record the hemisphere each year.
  • Before the establishment of PAHO/WHO's Expanded Immunization Program in 1977, more than 250,000 measles cases and 12,000 deaths were recorded yearly in the Americas.
  • Starting in the 1990s, cases declined, but the most notable drop came after the region launched a major measles elimination initiative in 1994. The last recorded endemic outbreak of measles was in Venezuela and Colombia in 2001-2002.
  • Following the interruption of endemic circulation in November 2002, the countries of the Americas began counting cases imported from other regions, reporting a total of 2,771 imported cases up to 2012.
  • Most of these (1,369 cases) occurred in 2011, when 171 outbreaks from importations were documented, resulting in sustained transmission in at least three countries (Canada, Ecuador and Brazil).
  • The PAHO/WHO-led elimination strategy implemented by the region's countries was based on experience gained in polio eradication. It had three main components:
  • Completion of a one-time national "catch-up" campaign targeting all children ages 1 to 14 (to reach children who may have been previously missed);
  • Strengthening of routine immunization services to ensure that at least 95% of children are reached every year,
  • Mass follow-up campaigns every four years, aimed at vaccinating at least 95% of all children 1-4 years.
  • A study on the cost-effectiveness of measles elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean, which included PAHO/WHO experts, estimated that countries in the region have prevented 3.2 million measles cases and 16,000 deaths between 2000 and 2020 as a result of vaccination.


More information:


Number of vaccine—preventable disease cases in the Americas

Cost-effectiveness of measles elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean: a prospective analysis