The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that rubella has been eliminated in Australia in a landmark moment for the country.
In an announcement yesterday, Australian health minister Greg Hunt said they have been successful in eliminating the disease via a national immunization program. This provided free vaccinations for children aged 12 months and a booster at 18 months,.
"The elimination of rubella is a great day for public health in Australia and sends a powerful message that vaccinations work," Hunt said in a statement.
"I commend the efforts of Australia's health professionals over the decades and the millions of parents who ensure their children are always vaccinated."
Rubella, also known as German measles, can cause a rash and symptoms including nausea, a low fever, and conjunctivitis. Some people do not realize they have it as it is so minor, but it can be very dangerous for pregnant women, particularly those in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
There have been just two cases of rubella in Australia this year, following a number of epidemics. In 1958, there were more than 5,000 cases. In 1963-64, there were more than 3,000 cases, and in the early 1990s there were more than 4,000 registered cases, in data supplied by Hunt. But the elimination is a testament to how successful Australia’s program of tackling rubella has been.
“The science is in and the medical experts’ advice is absolute – vaccinations save lives and protect lives and they are an essential part of a healthy society,” Hunt said.
The immunization rates for 5-year-olds reached their highest figure on record last week at 94.62 percent. This year alone, the government has invested $446.5 million in the National Immunization Program.
The country is now one of more than 30 that have been successful in eliminating rubella, with the list including Sweden, Greece, and Iceland, noted The Guardian. It was also confirmed by the WHO that Australia had maintained its elimination of measles, which was verified in 2014.
“Australia has high-performing surveillance systems to rapidly detect and respond to rubella cases and today’s confirmation this disease has been eliminated is testimony to the success of our National Immunization Program,” added Hunt.