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Towards elimination of measles and rubella in Italy. Progress and challenges

Abstract

Introduction In the WHO European Region, endemic transmission of measles and rubella had been interrupted by 37 and 42 of the 53 member states (MSs), respectively, by 2018. Sixteen MSs are still endemic for measles, 11 for rubella and nine for both diseases, the latter including Italy. Elimination is documented by each country’s National Verification Committee (NVC) through an annual status update (ASU). Objective By analysing data used to produce the ASUs, we aimed to describe the advances made by Italy towards elimination of measles and rubella. Moreover, we propose a set of major interventions that could facilitate the elimination process. Methods A total of 28 indicators were identified within the six core sections of the ASU form and these were evaluated for the period 2013–2018. These indicators relate to the incidence of measles/rubella; epidemiological investigation of cases; investigation of outbreaks; performance of the surveillance system; population immunity levels; and implementation of supplemental immunization activities (SIAs). Results From 2013 to 2018, epidemiological and laboratory analyses of measles cases in Italy improved substantially, allowing timely investigation in 2017 and 2018 of most outbreak and sporadic cases and identification of the majority of genotypic variants. Moreover, since 2017, vaccination coverage has increased significantly. Despite these improvements, several areas of concern emerged, prompting the following recommendations: i) improve outbreak monitoring; ii) strengthen the MoRoNet network; iii) increase the number of SIAs; iv) reinforce vaccination services; v) maintain regional monitoring; vi) design effective communication strategies; vii) foster the role of general practitioners and family paediatricians. Conclusions The review of national ASUs is a crucial step to provide the NVC with useful insights into the elimination process and to guide the development of targeted interventions. Against this background, the seven recommendations proposed by the NVC have been shared with the Italian Ministry of Health and the Technical Advisory Group on measles and rubella elimination and have been incorporated into the new Italian Elimination Plan 2019–2023 as a technical aid to facilitate the achievement of disease elimination goals

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