The American Red Cross and its Measles Initiative Partners Vaccinate One Billion Children in First Decade

SUBMITTED BY: Abigail Gerard, CRC Intern

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance worldwide. For more information, please visit: www.measlesinitiative.org

The American Red Cross and its Measles Initiative partners recently announced the celebration of their billionth vaccination of the Measles Virus. Over the past 11 years, one billion children in more than 60 developing countries have been saved due to the Measles Initiative which has made significant gains in the global effort to stop measles.

The child who received the history-making measles vaccination was one of 3.5 million immunized in Mozambique this May. The immunization campaign was sponsored by the American Red Cross and the Measles Initiative’s four other founding partners – the United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and World Health Organization.

In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. With accelerated immunization activities spearheaded by governments and the Measles Initiative, global measles mortality has decreased by an impressive 78 percent worldwide from 733,000 deaths in 2000 to 164,000 in 2008. Reductions in measles-related deaths during that same time period accounts for nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the overall decrease in childhood mortality, representing significant progress toward Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4). This goal, which was set by the UN, aims to reduce the mortality rate for children less than five years by two thirds between 1990 and 2015.

At one point 1 million children were dying of Measles each year. The Measles Vaccination is an actual cure for Measles.  There were more children dying from Measles than HIV and Aids. Since this initiative started measles in Africa are now down by 85%. Even right here in Cincinnati, the local Chapter has been working with area youth to lend a hand in this International effort to save lives. Grade School, Middle School, Senior High and even College students have conducted school fundraisers, raised awareness by wearing the Measles Initiative pin and educated others about the dangers of Measles and how others can help; raising a total of $8,000 within the last year potentially saving 8,000 lives. If anyone, student group or individual, would like to get involved please contact Vince Costello at (513) 579-3954 or email him at costellov@cincinnatiredcross.org.

“With every dollar donated, we vaccinated another child,” said Vince Costello, International Services Director for the Cincinnati American Red Cross. “Traveling to Madagascar, I had the opportunity to witness the work of this Initiative first hand. It is amazing to know that youth in the Cincinnati area have stopped outbreaks, improved treatment and protected future generations from one of the world’s deadliest diseases.”

Looking ahead to its second decade, the Measles Initiative will focus on achieving a series of interim targets toward the eventual eradication of measles. The first of these milestones will be to reduce measles mortality by 95 percent by 2015 (compared to 2000). The Measles Initiative estimates it will need approximately $212 million between 2012 and 2015 to reach the targets.

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