Gavi Board approves ambitious package to tackle highly-infectious disease
Geneva, 3 December 2015 – A new package of support for measles and rubella immunisation, approved today by the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will contribute towards saving more than a million lives. The decision marks a significant step forward in the approach to tackling measles and rubella in developing countries.
Despite progress over the past decade, global targets to eliminate measles are significantly off-track. The disease still claims the lives of more than 100,000 people worldwide every year, most of them children under 5 years of age. The disease is so infectious that an unvaccinated person could catch measles in a doctor’s waiting room hours after an infected person has left the building. Communities with measles vaccination coverage rates lower than 90-95% are at risk of fast-spreading outbreaks, leading to numerous fatalities.
The package of support we have agreed on today will save lives and give developing countries a golden opportunity to reform how they protect their children against measles
Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the Gavi Board
Gavi’s revised strategy will help consolidate the currently fragmented approach to tackling measles in developing countries, underpinned by strong routine immunisation programmes with high coverage. This will put countries firmly on the road towards controlling the disease; they will also be able to take advantage of children’s visits to health facilities for measles vaccinations to increase coverage rates of other vaccines.
Gavi will support periodic, data-driven measles and rubella campaigns to ensure children who have not been reached through routine immunisation are protected, as well as supporting parts of the Measles & Rubella Initiative’s (M&RI) work to tackle any outbreaks. Under the new approach, these campaigns will be better planned and synchronised with other immunisation activities and be more targeted at the hardest to reach children. They will also be independently monitored.
Countries will be required to have a five-year rolling measles and rubella plan, as part of their long term routine immunisation plans, which will be updated annually.
“Countries cannot begin to hope to eliminate measles until they get epidemics under control,” said Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the Gavi Board, “The package of support we have agreed on today will save lives and give developing countries a golden opportunity to reform how they protect their children against measles.”
Measles vaccination in developing countries currently involves a range of strategies, with a heavy reliance on large-scale immunisation campaigns. Coordinated by M&RI, these, together with global increases in routine measles coverage, have been successful in driving down the numbers of deaths caused by measles – from more than half a million in 2000 to 114,900 in 2014. However, the Global Vaccine Action Plan target for measles to be eliminated from four WHO regions by the end of 2015 is significantly off track and highly unlikely to be achieved.
Campaigns that lack proper planning, coordination and monitoring are an inefficient method of reaching children with vaccines – children who miss out on immunisation in one campaign are highly likely to be missed multiple times. Additionally, campaigns are a more expensive way of reaching children with vaccines compared to routine immunisation.
“Measles is a key indicator of the strength of a country’s immunisation systems and, all too often, it ends up being the canary in the coalmine,” said Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley. “Where we see measles’ outbreaks, we can be almost certain that coverage of other vaccines is also low. Today’s decision will help to not only sustainably reduce the number of deaths from measles, but it will also help countries improve their coverage with other vaccines.”
Under the new package, the Vaccine Alliance’s support for measles and rubella vaccination between 2016 and 2020 will rise from US$ 600 million to around US$ 820 million. Countries will begin to pay a co-financing share for routine measles-rubella vaccines or second dose of measles – a crucial step in ensuring long-term financial sustainability of their programmes. Long-term planning and budgeting will be a crucial part of countries’ rolling five-year measles and rubella plans.
Today’s decision will help to not only sustainably reduce the number of deaths from measles, but it will also help countries improve their coverage with other vaccines
Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley
Countries that choose to use two doses of measles-rubella vaccine will be protecting their children against both diseases. Rubella, while rarely fatal, is passed from mothers to their unborn children. This can lead to severe mental impairments as well as deformities and deafness. According to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 babies are born with congenital rubella syndrome each year – the majority in Africa and South-East Asia.
The Board also approved a new strategy for Gavi’s engagement with India, goal-level indicators for Gavi’s 2016-2020 strategy, and a new framework for Alliance partner engagement.
Board members also paid tribute to outgoing Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten. The former Norwegian Minister of Health and current Secretary-General of the Nordic Council of Ministers has served as Board Chair for five years, overseeing two successful Gavi replenishments.
The Board welcomed former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who will take over as Board Chair from January 2016, and joined the meeting as an observer.
Number of Reported Measles Cases with onset date from Apr 2015 to Sep 2015 (6M period). Credit: WHO/2015.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is funded by governments (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, Alwaleed Philanthropies, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Majid Al Futtaim, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., the A&A Foundation, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, UPS and Vodafone.
Click to view the full donor list.