Press releases

Achieving measles and hepatitis B targets requires redoubling of efforts—WHO

Sixtieth session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 21–25 September 1009, Hong Kong (China)

HONG KONG (China), 24 September 2009— The World Health Organization said increased domestic and external funding and stronger political commitment will be the key to achieving the twin goals of eliminating measles and reducing the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B infection in the Western Pacific Region by 2012.

In 2005, all Western Pacific Member States unanimously adopted the 2012 goals of eliminating measles and reducing the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B infection to less than 2% in under 5 years of age.

The Region is making progress towards both goals, and has remained free of poliovirus since 2000. As a result of recent efforts in China, Japan, and many other countries, the number of reported measles cases decreased by nearly 58% from January to June 2009 compared to the same period in 2008; twenty-four countries and areas have eliminated or are close to eliminating measles. Twenty-six of the Region’s 37 countries and areas, which comprise 87% of the Region’s population, have likely reached the hepatitis B reduction target.

WHO expressed concern that weak immunization systems in some countries, such as in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Papua New Guinea, and limited domestic funding in many more, create challenges to achieving regional targets. Also, the continued risk of polio virus importation requires Member States to maintain high levels of immunity against polio and sensitive surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis.

Countries need to redouble their efforts to eliminate measles and reduce hepatitis B virus infections by 2012, and to maintain poliomyelitis-free status. A high percentage of home births in many Member States remain a challenge for increasing timely birth dose coverage with hepatitis B vaccine, a requirement for achieving the goal. Achieving measles elimination will require supplemental immunization activities and attaining high quality surveillance for suspected measles cases in addition to strengthening routine immunization services.

The Regional Committee is meeting in Hong Kong (China) from 21 to 25 September to review WHO's work in the Region and to map future health directions WHO will take to improve people's health in collaboration with Member States.

For more information or interview request, please call:

Ms Marilu Lingad at Hong Kong mobile: (852) 6689 5763;
Philippine mobile: +63 908 8914532; e-mail:

Mr Peter Cordingley at Hong Kong mobile (852) 6349 2101:
Philippine mobile: +63 918 963 0224; email

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