The Caribbean has become the first region in the world, to have completely eliminated the transmission of measles.
The Pan American Health Organization reported that the last widespread cases of measles were recorded 15 years ago in 2001, in Venezuela.
A country is considered disease-free if there have been no new cases for three years, and the report certified by the International Committee of Experts for Documentation and Verification of Measles, Rubella and Congenital Syndrome Elimination in the Americas.
Director of PAHO, Carissa Etienne referred to the historic development as an “extraordinary milestone,” saying endemic measles elimination can be achieved when countries work together at the local, state and federal levels.
According to a PAHO release, key reasons for the success include high rates of vaccination coverage in regional countries and early detection of cases.
The committee also found the Americas has been declared free of another childhood illness, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome since 2015. PAHO said vaccination campaigns to eliminate rubella have helped to maintain measles elimination by using a combination measles and rubella vaccines for adolescents and young adults.
However, According to PAHO, the region continues to face the threat of imported cases from countries outside this hemisphere, where the virus still circulates.
The goal now is to maintain the gains through the widespread vaccination of youngsters beginning at the age of one, and making sure they get a booster shot at 18 months.
“While 100% of vaccine coverage is ideal, officials said elimination of measles could be maintained if vaccination remains above 95%,” PAHO said.
PAHO Officials says the global anti-measles effort will have to continue to provide information on the benefits of vaccination, as well as scientific information on its safety to those who refuse to vaccinate.