06:59am Wednesday 28 June 2017

Gavi to help protect millions more children against polio

Geneva – Support for the introduction of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) will be extended to 2020 in up to 70 low- and middle-income countries, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance announced today. The Gavi Board decision will enable routine immunisation programmes to reach millions more children with this critical vaccine and support the final drive towards eradication.

“We now have a unique opportunity to consign polio to the history books, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” said Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board. “We cannot and will not rest as long as any child anywhere in the world is at risk of contracting this terrible disease. Gavi fully supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and partners, and this decision means we will continue to work together as we edge ever closer to a polio-free world.”

As transmission of wild poliovirus has not yet been stopped, the target date for global certification of eradication has had to be pushed back by at least two years – from 2018 to 2020 at the earliest. Polio remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Five wild poliovirus cases have been recorded since the beginning of the year: three in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan.

Moreover vaccine supply constraints have delayed introductions or interrupted IPV use in some Gavi-supported countries. To date 53 countries have introduced IPV to their immunisation programme with Gavi support. Until all poliovirus cases are fully eradicated and contained all countries are at risk, especially those with weak vaccine coverage levels.

The cost of extending support to 2020 is projected to be up to US$ 250 million which will be financed by additional funding raised by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and by existing funds from Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The Gavi Board decision should provide reassurance to countries and manufacturers of Gavi’s continued support for IPV and polio eradication.

“We will need to evaluate Gavi support to IPV beyond 2020 to make sure that the disease doesn’t re-emerge after global certification,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi the Vaccine Alliance. “The vaccine will have to be assessed differently from other vaccines based on its value to the global public good. Polio eradication will rank as one of the greatest achievements in the history of global health, reflecting the combined efforts of funders and of hundreds of thousands of scientists, health workers and ordinary vaccinators over three decades.”

Ensuring continued high immunisation coverage of children in the poorest countries is critical to protect children everywhere from the spread of infectious diseases.

NEW POLICY ON FRAGILITY, EMERGENCIES AND REFUGEES

Gavi operates in many of the most fragile settings where health needs are often the greatest. These circumstances require a different approach to ensure children get the vaccines they need. The Gavi Board approved a new policy on Fragility, Emergencies and Refugees to enable a rapid and tailored response in these settings.

“As climate change, conflict and economic crises continue to drive people from their homes and devastate health systems, we must make sure that the weakest and most vulnerable are not excluded from receiving life-saving vaccines,” added Dr Berkley. “Good health is a fundamental human right. It is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of child refugees or children trapped in war-torn countries are excluded from receiving basic health services, including vaccines.”

Gavi-supported host countries will for instance be able to request additional support to immunise refugees. In the case of emergencies, countries can request flexibility in the vaccine application process or while implementing Health System Strengthening (HSS) support. Where needed, the new policy enables Gavi to work more directly with partners and non-state actors including civil society organisations (CSO) operating in affected areas.

Lastly, the Board decided that, due to the on-going conflict, Yemen will continue to receive Gavi support in spite of co-financing challenges that the country is facing.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is supported by donor 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, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, Deutsche Post DHL, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, Girl Effect, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Majid Al Futtaim, Philips, Unilever, UPS and Vodafone).

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