Worldwide, it is estimated that there are more than 100.000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) each year. In 1998, standard case definitions for surveillance of CRS and rubella were developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2001, 123 countries/territories reported a total of 836.356 rubella cases. In the future more countries are expected to report on rubella as a global measles/rubella laboratory network is further developed under the coordination of WHO. Operational research is being conducted to improve rubella surveillance. This includes projects on initiating CRS surveillance, comparative studies on diagnostic laboratory methods, and molecular epidemiology research to expand the global understanding of patterns of rubella virus circulation. In 1996 a WHO survey found that 78 od 214 reporting countries/territories (36%) were using rubella vaccine in their routine immunization services. By the en of 2002 a total of 124 of the 214 counties/territories (58%) were using rubella vaccine. Rubella vaccine use varies by stage of economic development: 100% for industrialized countries, 71% for countries with economies in transition, and 48% for developing countries. A safe effective rubella vaccine is available, and there are proven vaccination strategies for preventing rubella and CRS. A WHO position paper provides guidance on programmatic aspects of rubella vaccine introduction. The introduction of rubella vaccine is cost-effective and cost-beneficial but requires ongoing strengthening of routine immunization services and surveillance systems.