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India’s plan to eradicate measles, rubella

  • Published
    23rd Jan, 2023

India had set a target to eliminate measles and rubella (MR) by 2023, having missed the earlier deadline of 2020, seeing disruptions due to the pandemic. 

About the Disease:

  • Measles is a highly infectious condition.
  • Scientists have identified 21 strains of the measles virus
  • There is no specific treatment for measles


  • Runny nose
  • Dry hacking cough
  • Conjunctivitis, or swollen eyelids and inflamed eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Photophobia, or sensitivity to light
  • Sneezing
  • A reddish-brown rash
  • Koplik's spots or very small greyish-white spots with bluish-white centres in the mouth, insides of cheeks, and throat.
  • Generalized body aches


There are two types of measles:

  • Measles: This is the standard form caused by the rubeola virus.
  • Rubella or German measles: This is caused by the rubella virus.
  • Rubella generally presents as mild but presents more of a risk to unborn infants than young children if a woman contracts the virus while she is pregnant.
  • It is neither as infectious nor as severe as standard measles.
  • The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines contain immunizations for both types.
Spread of Measles and Rubella in India:
  • According to the latest Global Measles and Rubella Update, India had 56,399 confirmed measles cases and 1,066 confirmed rubella cases in 2018.
  • As per WHO, measles is a leading cause of death in children, with one-third (around 56,000 in 2011) of all measles deaths worldwide happening in India.
  • Rubella causes birth defects, such as irreversible deafness and blindness in nearly 40 thousand children in India every year.
  •  At least 220 million children from 30 states and union territories have already been vaccinated under the nationwide campaign that started in 2017.

Need for emergency action:

  • The measles virus is one of the world’s most contagious human viruses that kill more than 1, 00,000 children every year globally, and rubella is a leading vaccine-preventable cause of birth defects.
  • Both measles and rubella can be prevented by just two doses of a safe and effective vaccine.
  • Over the past two decades, the measles vaccine is estimated to have averted more than 30 million deaths globally, as per the WHO’s statistics.
  • While measles has a high fatality rate, rubella infection in a pregnant woman will have an impact on the foetus, resulting in birth defects.

India’s plan to eradicate MR diseases:

  • During 2010–2013, India conducted a phased measles catch-up immunisation for children aged 9 months–10 years in 14 States, vaccinating approximately 119 million children.
  • Mission Indradhanush was launched in 2014 to ramp up vaccinating the unvaccinated population.
  • During 2017–2021, India adopted a national strategic plan for measles and rubella elimination, and introduced rubella-containing vaccine (RCV) into the routine immunisation programme, besides launching a nationwide measles-rubella supplementary immunisation activity (SIA) catch-up campaign.
  • It also transitioned from outbreak-based surveillance to case-based acute fever and rash surveillance, and more than doubled the number of laboratories in the measles-rubella network.
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