More than 16 million children and adults rapidly vaccinated against measles following major outbreak
Joint press release by UNICEF, WHO and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
PYONGYANG, 20 April 2007 -- In one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of measles, 16
million children and adults in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have now been
immunized against the disease, less than a month after the government asked for assistance.
The massive nationwide immunization campaign was organised in two phases by DPRK’s Ministry of
Public Health, with support and funding from UNICEF, WHO and the International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
In the first phase, more than six million children, aged six months to 15 years, were vaccinated
between 14 and 18 March 2007, some of them within just three days of the arrival of the vaccines in
the capital of Pyongyang. The second phase from April 9 to 11 targeted more than 10 million children
and adults aged from 16 to 45.
In addition to a shot of the measles vaccine, all participants were given a dose of Vitamin A which
was supplied by the International Federation and is essential for immune system function and the
survival, growth and development of children.
A joint technical mission from UNICEF and WHO also visited the country during the first phase of the
campaign and have advised the government on taking steps to prevent future outbreaks of measles. .
Teams from WHO and UNICEF were deployed to different parts of the country to observe the campaign in
both the phases.
A large mobilization of local Red Cross volunteers also supported the efforts to ensure the success
of the campaign.
The massive campaign cost the international agencies about $6 million USD. The first phase was funded
by UNICEF and the second phase was jointly funded by UNICEF, WHO and the International Federation.
The government of DPRK covered all operating costs. Internal transportation, training, social
mobilization, and staff cost are estimated to have cost an additional US$ 2.5 million.
After a request for help from the government on 15 February, 6.2 million doses of vaccines and
syringes, procured through UNICEF’s Supply Division in Copenhagen, reached Pyongyang in the first
week of March. Within three days, the first children were being vaccinated.
"The large quantity of measles vaccines and other supplies that were received in connection with the
recent outbreak of the disease in some parts of the country helped prevent further spread of the
measles and immunize against future outbreak" said Mr. Choe Su Hon Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Korea.
"UNICEF was able to respond rapidly to the outbreak thanks to the quick mobilization of the network
of health care providers in the country and due to the immediate support from the Central Emergency
Relief Fund," said Gopalan Balagopal, UNICEF’s Representative in DPRK.
"WHO was able to rapidly mobilize a team of 3 experts from its SEAR Office in order to assist the
Government of DPRK in epidemiologic and laboratory investigation of the measles outbreak," said Tej
Walia, the WHO Representative to DPRK. "Our direct observation of the second phase confirmed that the
immunization campaign was extremely well organized by MOPH and the local authorities and as a result
coverage was extremely high."
"This was a remarkable example of good cooperation between different organizations," said Jaap
Timmer, the International Federation's Head of Delegation in DPRK. "The DPRK Red Cross mobilized more
than 15,000 of its volunteers to visit families and explain the importance and benefits of the
vaccination campaign. The local Red Cross volunteers, who have been trained in first aid and
community health, reinforced the vaccination teams to enable them to finish the two phases in such a
short period of time."
The first measles cases in over a decade in DPRK appeared in November 2006. By February 2007 over
3,600 people in 30 of the DPRK's 204 counties had been affected, including two adults and two
infants, who died.
Government data indicates that 40 per cent of the measles cases occurred in 11 to 19-year-olds and
nine per cent among children under the age of five. The first cases were initially believed to be
rubella, as measles had not been reported in DPRK since 1992, and many of the country's health
workers were unfamiliar with the symptoms.
Measles is spread through respiration and is highly contagious – 90 per cent of people without
immunity sharing a house with an infected person will catch it. The incubation period usually lasts
for 4 to 12 days, during which there are no symptoms.
For more information regarding this press release please contact:
UNICEF: Michael Le Pechoux in Pyongyang at Tel 850 2 3817 150or e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org /New
WHO: Dr. Tej Walia, WHO Representative to DPRK, Tel 850 2 3817 920 or e-mail: email@example.com
International Federation: Helena Laatio, Communications Delegate for East Asia in Beijing Tel: +86 13
911 710 635 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org - Anna Nelson, Communications Officer for Asia and the
Pacific in Geneva Tel: +41 79 724 2046 E-mail: email@example.com