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Home Resource Center Measles and Rubella

What are measles and rubella?


Fighting Measles

One of the most contagious diseases ever known, measles is a leading cause of illness, disability, and death among young children around the world. According to the Measles and Rubella Initiative (M&RI), while significant progress has been made, approximately 380 children still die from measles-related complications each day. In 2018, measles infected over nine million people.

Rubella, or “German Measles,” is a viral disease that can be very dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children. If a pregnant woman is infected with rubella, there is a high risk that the baby could develop Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). CRS can cause miscarriage or serious birth defects, including heart disease, deafness and blindness. According to M&RI, more than 100,000 babies are born with CRS each year. Vaccination efforts have made significant progress in the fight against rubella, which has been eliminated in 84 countries.

LCIF and partners often talk about measles and rubella together, as both can be prevented with a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine. Vaccines are often delivered through a combined measles rubella (MR) shot, which costs less than US$2 per child. The World Health Organization recommends two doses of measles vaccine for full coverage. In many low-income countries, limited healthcare infrastructure and lack of information make it difficult for families to get their children vaccinated, so it is advantageous to deliver the measles and rubella vaccines together as one shot.

Where we are now


In 2019, LCIF committed to providing US$1 million over two years to the M&RI to support measles outbreak response activities. Funds support vaccination campaigns in middle-income countries and immunization of children over five years old. While funding support options for middle-income countries are limited, the activities are important to combat or prevent measles outbreaks and save lives. LCIF funding has supported vaccination activities in Brazil, Mexico, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea.

Mobilizing communities


School Visit

Perhaps Lions’ biggest contribution to the fight against measles comes in the form of social mobilization. Lions know their communities, and they know how to make an impact in those communities. Local Lions actively engage in social mobilization and advocacy to raise awareness about the dangers of measles and the benefits of vaccination. They go door-to-door, speaking to the parents of young children and educating them. Lions host parades and purchase radio advertisements to promote vaccination campaigns. They canvas their neighborhoods, affixing posters and passing out flyers. They speak to local and national officials, community members and religious leaders to increase the number of vaccination advocates in their areas, and work with LCIF’s partners to reach even the most remote areas.

Since 2013, LCIF has awarded designated grants to support Lions at the country level as they raise awareness about the benefits of immunization and increase turnout during vaccination campaigns. As of 2021, LCIF has awarded more than US$3.6 million to Lions in 25+ countries and geographical areas, to support social mobilization and advocacy activities.

The history of LCIF’s fight against measles (2010-2020)

  • The Measles Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation approach LCIF with a partnership idea that would engage Lions worldwide in the fight against measles. Now known as the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI), the initiative is a coalition of international partners dedicated to the elimination of measles and rubella. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation focus areas include the delivery of interventions that reduce under-five and maternal mortality, limit the spread of vaccine-preventable disease, and promote more equitable health outcomes within countries and globally.
  • Lions and LCIF receive an initial grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010 to help fight measles in four specific regions: Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali and Nigeria. Lions involved in this pilot initiative focus their efforts in three main areas: (1) advocacy at the local, regional and national levels (2) direct involvement in social marketing and mobilization (3) financial support. The efforts by Lions and partners are tremendously successful, resulting in 41 million children vaccinated within these four countries.

Read more: One Shot, One Life: Lions Measles Initiative (available in English only)

  • Due to the success of the pilot initiative and the role Lions serve within communities around the world, the Gates Foundation awards LCIF a US$5 million challenge grant. Lions and LCIF are asked to exceed this funding with US$10 million – providing a total of US$15 million for the fight against measles.

Lions meet the Gates Foundation challenge in October 2012, and the funds help purchase measles vaccines that reach more than 15 million children. In addition to financial support, Lions provide hands-on involvement in measles vaccination campaigns. With the help of LCIF, Lions continue their advocacy efforts and actively begin planning for upcoming campaigns.

Gavi Partnership

LCIF partners with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to protect tens of millions of children living in the world’s poorest countries. LCIF completes their commitment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance by raising US$30 million. The Gavi Matching Fund matches LCIF’s contributions dollar for dollar, bringing the total amount raised to US$60 million. In addition to the financial contribution, Lions worldwide provide advocacy and social mobilization activities aimed at increasing awareness of and participation in vaccination campaigns. The results are tremendous.

Read more:

Gavi Partnership Phase II

In 2018, LCIF enters Phase II of its partnership with Gavi, focusing on Lions’ social mobilization and advocacy activities. Lions are in their communities talking with parents, schools, local governments, and other community leaders. Lions volunteer at vaccination centers, dispel common misconceptions about the measles and the measles vaccine, and spread the word about why it is important for every child to be immunized from measles. Gavi and LCIF collaborate to provide educational materials and financial support to Lions’ social mobilization efforts in Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.


From the Frontlines

Stopping measles outbreaks in Brazil

Even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic upended all of our lives, measles cases surged to a 23-year high around the world. Despite the challenges, ensuring vaccinations reach everyone, everywhere is imperative.

Preventing Future Measles Outbreaks in Mexico

As part of Mexico’s strategy to preserve the elimination of measles, rubella and CRS, the Ministry of Health, with support and strategic partnership from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Lions Clubs International Foundation, carried out a vaccination campaign.

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Our children need us

To support Lions and Leos in their fight to end measles, consider donating to LCIF.