The Health Protection Agency (HPA) on Friday launched a nationwide measles-rubella vaccination campaign, targeting individuals aged between 18 and 49 who still have not received two doses of the vaccine.

The HPA said in a statement that, due to the highly contagious nature of measles, vaccination coverage for the entire population should be maintained to reduce the number of cases.

According to the HPA, the campaign, which aims to vaccinate both Maldivians and foreigners, will commence across different parts of the country within the next two weeks.

The MR vaccine was first introduced to the Maldives in 1983.

According to the HPA, the current national vaccination schedule gives the first dose of the vaccine to children aged nine months and the second dose to children aged 18 months with MR vaccine coverage maintained above 95 percent in recent years. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Maldives measles-free in 2017 and rubella-free in 2020.

However, in 2020, Maldives reported PCR-positive cases of measles, and a nationwide MR vaccination campaign was launched. While the 2020 campaign had to be suspended due to a flu outbreak, more cases of measles have been reported this year, leading to the reactivation of the vaccination campaign.

The HPA noted that, in the past, the Maldives has been able, with public participation and cooperation with health workers and various relevant agencies, to eradicate diseases such as malaria from the country.