Vaccination campaigns in seven countries to tackle rise in measles cases worldwide

London, 5 February 2020 – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will help vaccinate up to 45 million children in seven developing countries over the next six months in a series of major vaccination campaigns to help halt a recent surge in global measles cases.

The campaigns will be carried out by governments with funding from Gavi and support from Vaccine Alliance and Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) partners, including World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. They will target children under five years old, the age group most vulnerable to the disease, with Bangladesh also aiming to reach children under nine years old.

In addition Gavi, with support from Vaccine Alliance partners, will help Madagascar and Mauritania introduce a second dose of measles-containing vaccine into their routine immunisation programmes. Over a million children every year in the two countries will receive this vital second dose, which increases the vaccine’s effectiveness from around 84% to 97%.

Reported measles cases worldwide fell from over 850,000 in 2000 to 132,000 in 2016, largely as a result of increases in vaccine coverage in the world’s poorest countries. However, in recent years cases have surged dramatically. In 2018 there were nearly 360,000 cases recorded globally. Provisional data reported to WHO shows this climbed again in 2019, with almost 430,000 cases reported for the year to date.

“The measles vaccine is safe, effective and low-cost – there is no reason children should still be dying of this disease,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “While the headlines might focus on rising cases in Europe and the US, it is sadly still the case that the vast majority of measles deaths are happening in the world’s poorest countries, where poor health systems mean children are often left to fight the disease without treatment or support. That’s why these vaccination campaigns are so important, protecting the next generation so they can survive and thrive in later life. The use of tailored and targeted approaches in these campaigns is vital to ensure we leave no child behind.”

“Measles is a devastating disease that is causing severe sickness and taking lives,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “No matter where they live, vaccination helps children survive, thrive, and lead a long and healthy life. WHO is proud to be working with Gavi and partners to ensure lifesaving measles vaccines reach where they are needed most.”

“Measles cases rose alarmingly in 2019, affecting hundreds of thousands of children and claiming many young lives,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We need to vaccinate every child. These measles outbreaks have taught us that we need to stay vigilant. We can’t afford to wait and watch.”

The vaccination campaigns will take place in the following countries:

  • Bangladesh, where Gavi will fund measles-rubella vaccines for over 15.5 million children under five years old. The government of Bangladesh will also support the vaccination of a further 17 million children up to nine years old.
  • Central African Republic, where around 1 million children will receive the measles vaccine in the second phase of a campaign that began last year.
  • Ethiopia, where nearly 15 million children will receive the measles vaccine.
  • Kenya, where up to 7 million children will receive the measles-rubella vaccine.
  • Nepal, where nearly 3 million children will receive the measles-rubella vaccine.
  • Somalia, where around 1.4 million children will receive the measles vaccine in the continuation of a campaign that began last year.
  • South Sudan, where over 2.5 million children will receive the measles vaccine.

As well as funding preventive measles and measles-rubella vaccination campaigns, Gavi supports the introduction of measles-containing vaccines into routine immunisation programmes across the developing world. In order to encourage countries to strengthen routine immunisation and reach unvaccinated children, Gavi also supports subnational measles campaigns and enhanced routine immunisation activities targeted at reaching previously missed children.

The Vaccine Alliance also provides funding to the M&RI to support their work responding to measles outbreaks in developing countries. With Gavi's support, M&RI has vaccinated 54 million children during measles outbreaks alone between 2012 and 2018.

Between 2000-2018 the Vaccine Alliance’s support for measles vaccinations has reached over 118 million children through routine immunisation and more than 524 million children through measles and measles-rubella vaccination campaigns.

In June this year, the UK will host Gavi’s donor pledging conference in London, where donors will aim to raise at least US$7.4 billion to help vaccinate a further 300 million children against 18 diseases between 2021-25.

“Measles kills tens of thousands of children worldwide every year,” said UK International Development Secretary Alok Sharma. “Yet with vaccines these deaths are entirely preventable. I’m proud the UK will help vaccinate millions of children through Gavi’s campaigns, and will bring together donors in London in June to pledge even more support for future vaccinations.”

Notes to editors

About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 760 million children – and prevented more than 13 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.

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