Sciensano monitors the rubella samples sent to the National Reference Center for measles, mumps and rubella for confirmation.
Sciensano also tracks cases of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by collecting data from different surveillance systems. These data are published annually in an annual report, which you can find below.
Sciensano is also responsible for monitoring the elimination status of rubella in Belgium and coordinating the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium. To do this, two Sciensano teams work together:
- The National Reference Center (NRC) for Measles, Mumps and Rubella: diagnosis, confirmation and identification of circulating viruses
- The Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology: data collection, surveillance, reporting and coordination of the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium
Finally, the Department of Vaccine and Blood Product Quality is the Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL), which is responsible for the quality control of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines before they can be placed on the European market.
Identifying circulating rubella viruses as a National Reference Center for rubella viruses
The National Reference Center (NRC) confirms suspected cases of rubella. It does this by means of confirmation tests (IgM, PCR, avidity test). In addition, the NRC also analyses the circulating rubella virus, whereby several cases (in Belgium and abroad) can be linked to each other. More information can be found on the NRC website for measles, mumps and rubella.
Describing the evolution of rubella and CRS by surveillance via different systems
In Belgium, there is no national surveillance system for cases of rubella or congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Therefore, Sciensano monitors the number of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) cases by collecting data from different surveillance systems:
- the National Reference Center for congenital infectious diseases
- the surveillance network for congenital defects (Eurocat)
- the pediatric survey network (PediSurv)
- compulsory notification in Wallonia and Brussels
- the National Reference Center for measles, mumps and rubella.
In Belgium, no cases of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) were reported in 2013-2015. In 2012, one imported case was reported via the PediSurv pediatric survey network of the then WIV-ISP (now Sciensano).
Monitoring the elimination status of rubella and congenital rubella in Belgium
In order to combat rubella, and in particular to prevent the occurrence of congenital rubella cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has drawn up an elimination plan that is being followed up by all Member States of the European region, including Belgium. The elimination of rubella means that there may be fewer than one case per million inhabitants per year in Belgium and that there may be fewer than one case of congenital rubella in Belgium.
Sciensano monitors the elimination status for (measles and) rubella in Belgium, and prepares the annual status report for the WHO.
Coordinating the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium
Sciensano coordinates the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella, as well as the National Verification Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium.
The Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella was established in 2003 in Belgium to meet the WHO’s expectations for the elimination of (measles and) rubella. This committee consists of several experts (including responsible members of the competent communities, physician groups, academics, microbiologists, clinicians, epidemiologists, etc.) who meet at least once a year to discuss the problem of (measles and) rubella in Belgium.
In addition, since 2012 there has also been a National Verification Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium, in response to WHO guidelines. The National Verification Committee consists of three independent scientific experts.
Control of MMR and MMRV vaccines for rubella
Sciensano is the Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) and is responsible for the quality control of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) and Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Varicella (MBRV) vaccines before they can be placed on the European market. This control is carried out by the OMCL, independently of the vaccine manufacturer and for each batch separately. This control consists on the one hand of a critical review of the production data and quality analyses carried out by the vaccine manufacturer and on the other hand of additional analyses carried out by an OMCL. Thus, the Vaccine and Blood Product Quality Department performs various laboratory analyses according to the European Official Control Authority Batch Release (OCABR) guidelines. In addition, the Department also checks whether the production and quality data of the vaccine manufacturer are in conformity with the specifications as approved and recorded in the registration dossier. If a batch complies with all the quality criteria, the Department issues a certificate to the manufacturer, the so-called EU batch release certificate, and the vaccine may enter the European market.