Measles vaccine support

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Second dose of measles vaccine introduced in 14 countries

67 million children reached through Gavi-supported measles catch-up campaigns

140 million children immunised with measles-rubella vaccine

Gavi supported a measles-rubella vaccine campaign in Cambodia in 2013.

Gavi supported a measles-rubella vaccine campaign in Cambodia in 2013. A few months later, the country introduced the vaccine into the routine immunisation system. Credit: Gavi/2013/Luc Forsyth.

Gavi impacts measles control through different types of support:


Since 2007, Gavi has supported a second dose of measles vaccine in 14 countries, with 7 more countries planning to roll out the vaccine in 2015. To date, our support has helped countries immunise 22 million children.


Gavi has funded measles campaigns in six large countries considered at high risk of outbreaks but not yet ready to introduce the measles-rubella vaccine. Since 2013, some 67 million children have been protected from measles thanks to Gavi-funded campaigns.


By the end of 2014, 140 million children between 9 months and 14 years of age had been immunised with measles-rubella vaccine with Gavi support. Continued investment in the combined measles-rubella vaccine will significantly reduce measles outbreaks and deaths.

Although measles is entirely preventable with immunisation, it still claims almost 150,000 lives every year

Before 2001, more than 750,000 children died every year from measles, a highly contagious virus whose symptoms include high fever and a severe skin rash.

According to the WHO, global measles deaths fell by 75% between 2000 and 2013. However even with this impressive decline, an estimated 145,000 deaths occurred in 2013, mainly affecting children under the age of five. The majority of measles deaths (95%) occur in low-income countries with weak health systems.

In populations with large numbers of displaced people, malnourishment and poor access to health services, up to 10% of measles cases result in death. By weakening the immune system, measles can also lead to other health problems such as pneumonia, blindness, diarrhoea and encephalitis.

Recent experience shows that failure to vaccinate enough children and maintain high levels of herd immunity (93%–95%) can result in measles outbreaks. According to WHO, progress is stalled in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, where weak health systems, conflict and population displacement have hampered vaccination efforts.

Meanwhile, the European region has seen measles re-emerge with outbreaks in a number of countries including Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine.1 According to the Centres for Disease Control, the United States experienced an increase in measles cases in 2014–2015.2 


Measles is entirely preventable with immunisation, using a safe, effective and relatively inexpensive vaccine that has existed for more than half a century.

According to WHO, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths in the 2000–2013 period, making the vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Each child should be reached with two doses of the measles vaccine. The second dose can be given through routine immunisation programmes or through supplementary immunisation activities (catch-up campaigns).

There is a resurgence of measles in Africa, reinforcing the importance of stronger routine immunisation services and timely measles campaigns.

1 WHO press release: WHO warns that progress towards eliminating measles has stalled, 13 November 2014. Available at: Accessed on: 8 September 2015.

Gavi helps to protect against measles through four types of support

The Vaccine Alliance is working to counter the measles resurgence in four main ways:

1. Measles second dose

Countries can apply and receive support to provide children with a second opportunity for measles vaccination (“measles second dose”) in the routine system.

Providing a second opportunity for measles vaccination is a powerful tool to reach children who missed the first opportunity and to produce immunity in the small number of persons who failed to develop measles immunity after the first dose.

This also provides opportunities to strengthen the healthcare platform in the second year of a child’s life.

2. Measles supplementary immunisation activities (catch-up campaigns)

In 2012, exceptional support for measles supplementary immunisation activities (catch-up campaigns) for six countries identified to be at high risk of measles outbreaks was approved. This type of support has been provided to AfghanistanChadEthiopiathe Democratic Republic of the CongoNigeria and Pakistan.

3. Measles-rubella vaccine

Gavi support for the measles-rubella (MR) vaccine includes wide-age-range (9 month–14 year) measles-rubella catch-up campaigns intended to catalyse the introduction of rubella into the routine immunisation schedule (to replace first dose measles vaccine with measles-rubella vaccine). Once the campaign is completed, countries finance and introduce the MR vaccine into the routine immunisation system.

4. Measles outbreak response

Gavi is contributing US$ 55 million to the Measles & Rubella Initiative (formerly the Measles Initiative) from 2013–2017 to be used for outbreak response in Gavi-supported countries.  

The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) is a global partnership committed to ensuring no child dies from measles or is born with congenital rubella syndrome. It is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and WHO. The M&RI aims to reach the measles and rubella elimination goals of the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

Gavi’s Past investment in measles campaigns

In the 2004–2008 period, Gavi provided US$ 176 million to the Measles Initiative for measles campaigns. This support contributed to averting 860,000 future deaths.

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