Opening Remarks of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the Consultation on Measles Elimination and Hepatitis B Control-Final Session

Manila, Philippines
20 April 2012


Good morning. I am pleased to welcome you to this final day of the Consultation on Measles Elimination and Hepatitis B Control.

I am especially honoured to welcome our distinguished leaders from ministries of health who are joining us for today's programme.

Thank you all for investing time and effort to meet, discuss and — I hope — agree on the way forward to address the many critical topics on our agenda.

Your work has already produced impressive results. The Region is closing in on its measles elimination goal, and I wish to personally congratulate many countries for their determined efforts and successes.

In one of the largest campaigns ever, China vaccinated more than 100 million children across the country during 2010.

Measles virus circulated widely before the campaign, but now affects fewer than 3 of every million people per year.

Now China is focusing its efforts on counties that continue to report measles cases.

Japan experienced a serious measles outbreak in 2007 and 2008 and exported measles virus to many countries.

But Japan responded with resolve, implementing a tremendously successful five-year immunization and surveillance plan.

Now Japan's method for eliminating measles has been recognized by global experts as a potential model for other developed countries.

The Philippines suffered a measles epidemic in 2010 and 2011. Health authorities mounted a nationwide campaign from April to June last year.
Measles virus transmission seems to have stopped in all but a few provinces.

Follow up is needed in provinces where measles cases continue to occur, such as in Region 6.

Viet Nam also experienced a large outbreak in 2009 and 2010. Epidemiological data were used to identify the target age group, and a vaccination campaign was conducted in 2010 that reached 97% of children.

A year later, less than 20 laboratory-confirmed measles cases were reported, and no cases have been reported during the first quarter of 2012.

In 2010 and 2011, Cambodia also had an outbreak, but a vaccination campaign in February and November of last year seems to have stopped transmission. Still, surveillance must be improved to ensure success.

Papua New Guinea and the Lao People's Democratic Republic have not reported many measles cases for several years. Papua New Guinea conducts multi-antigen campaigns every two years to ensure equity of immunization coverage.

Lao health authorities conducted a highly successful campaign in November with both measles and rubella vaccine, vaccinating 97% of people up to age 19 against both diseases.

Mongolia has maintained high routine immunization coverage following its last vaccination campaign in 2007. As a result, no confirmed measles cases have been reported in the past two years.

The Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong (China), Macao (China), Fiji and the other Pacific island countries and areas report few confirmed measles cases. And those that are reported are likely to be imported or import-related.

In all, at least 26 countries and areas may be ready for verification, and nearly all others are on track to eliminate measles this year.

The Western Pacific is on track to become the next WHO region to eliminate measles.

I have been briefed on your deliberations over the past three days on verification criteria and processes, measles elimination status, and proposals for achieving and sustaining measles elimination.

Today, you will share this information with the policy-makers and decision-makers from our Member States.

I am sure that by the close of today's consultation we will reach consensus and a shared commitment on the way forward.

Together we shall achieve the goal of measles elimination in the Western Pacific Region.

We also have a second regional immunization goal — hepatitis B control.

We have a milestone to reach this year, but the final goal does not yet have a target year.

Today, you will review recommendations from the Regional Hepatitis B Expert Resource Panel on a proposed target year and discuss whether it is feasible.

The goals of measles elimination and hepatitis B control were developed in the context of strengthening immunization programmes.

A third topic on today's agenda will review and discuss how the Decade of Vaccines Global Vaccine Action Plan can help accomplish these goals.

Our colleagues from headquarters will brief us on the current status of the Global Vaccine Action Plan in preparation for its presentation to the next World Health Assembly for endorsement.

This will be an ideal opportunity to provide comments and consider possible interventions during the World Health Assembly.

Again, I thank you for your commitment to fulfilling the resolutions of the Regional Committee of the Western Pacific to eliminate measles and control hepatitis B.

I wish you a productive final day of this important consultation, and look forward to its conclusive, goal-driven outcome.