The messenger logo

Georgia tries to stop measles and rubella

By Sopo Datishvili
Wednesday, October 22
From October 20 to November 2, immunization against measles and rubella will take place throughout Georgia, about 1.1 million people aged from 6 to 27 receiving the vaccine.

Immunization will take place in policlinics, ambulatories and educational institutions. The authorities are seeking to protect the country from a possible mass outbreak of the disease expected by 2010. Although the incidence of measles and rubella in Georgia normalized during the period 1990 – 2003, between 2004 and 2005 the country experienced the worst outbreaks since 1973.

Measles, which is viral respiratory infection, is very common among children. It weakens the immune system and sometimes leads to fatal complications, such as pneumonia, malnutrition or diarrhea. It can cause blindness and deafness and even brain damage in children. Rubella is especially dangerous for women in their early pregnancy as it harms the unborn child. Rubella and measles are both preventable by immunization.

The mass immunization campaign is being conducted by the National Centre of Disease Control and Public Health Care and its partners – WHO, UNICEF and the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation. The campaign is coordinated by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs. Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs Aleksandre Kvitashvili says that the vaccination centres are fully equipped and 4,000 skilled workers will be involved in the process.

According to the Press Centre of the Health Ministry, the process of vaccination has begun quite well. In this short period, a sufficient number of people has already visited local policlinics for the vaccination.

UNICEF supports the immunization campaign in Georgia. The organization has already supplied the country with the vaccines and all the equipment needed. UNICEF has also arranged public seminars to raise awareness of this issue. As Maia Kurtsikidze, Communications Officer of UNICEF, told The Messenger, vaccination is one of the priorities of the organization. It already has experience in assisting the Government of Georgia with related campaigns, having supplied the country with vaccines for routine immunizations. “We arrange special information tours for journalists around Georgia. Our representatives have already been in Batumi, Kutaisi, and Telavi,” she added.

Measles and rubella are among the most dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases in Europe. In 2005 the World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted a resolution according to which immunization against measles and rubella should be increased. The WHO Regional Office for Europe subsequently launched a new strategic plan which set measles and rubella elimination targets for 2010. The Georgian immunization campaign is part of this.