GAVI boosts global response to measles outbreaks

Rubella Laos 10

A young woman receives immunisation against measles and rubella during an immunisation campaign in Laos. Copyright: The Measles and Rubella Initiative/C.McNab/2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Seeking to address the devastating resurgence of measles, the GAVI Alliance will provide up to an additional US$ 162 million to control and prevent outbreaks in developing countries. This funding will help countries bridge critical gaps in their efforts to build sustainable systems to control this deadly disease.

GAVI will exceptionally make up to US$ 107 million available for measles control and prevention in six high-risk countries: Afghanistan, Chad, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan.  A further US$ 55 million will be offered through the Measles & Rubella Initiative for rapid response vaccination campaigns in GAVI-eligible countries where outbreaks occur.

Delivering on the promise

Today’s decision by the GAVI Board tops a year of progress outlined in a report card reviewing developments since GAVI’s first pledging conference on 13 June 2011, at which donors pledged funding to immunise an additional 250 million children by 2015 to save four million lives.

By targeting measles we can have a major impact on health equity and ensure that people are protected against this disease no matter where they live.

Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the GAVI Alliance Board

The increased measles support, between now and 2017, will strengthen routine immunisation systems and follows a decision last November to provide more than US$ 600 million to tackle rubella through a combined measles-rubella (MR) vaccine. It is expected that 48 countries will introduce the MR vaccine by 2018 with GAVI’s support.

“By targeting measles we can have a major impact on health equity and ensure that people are protected against this disease no matter where they live,” said Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the GAVI Alliance Board. “This strategic investment is critical for the countries where children are at highest risk of infection.”

Canary in the coal mine

Measles is highly infectious and can cause serious illness, life-long disability, and death. In 1980, before widespread use of a global vaccine, an estimated 2.6 million people died worldwide. Increased routine vaccination has led to a 74% drop in measles mortality, from an estimated 535,000 deaths in 2000 to 139,000 in 2010. Rubella is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable birth defects leading to life-long disabilities.

In recent years, however, progress at further reducing the measles death toll has stalled due to outbreaks in Africa and a high disease burden in India.

“Measles is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ because outbreaks can signal that routine immunisation coverage is faltering,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance. “In order to eliminate measles, vaccine coverage must be at least 90 % so that adequate herd immunity is created. Fighting back when outbreaks occur and ensuring high routine coverage are critical to controlling measles and all other vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Over the past year, a growing number of new private donors have joined GAVI’s mission. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a US$ 1.5 million gift yesterday, which was doubled through the GAVI Matching Fund by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The gift makes the Church-sponsored LDS Charities the seventh partner in the programme.

Media requests:
Dan Thomas

Dan Thomas
GAVI Alliance
+41 79 251 8581
+41 22 909 6524

Jeffrey Rowland

Jeffrey Rowland
GAVI Alliance
+41 79 240 4559
+41 22 909 7165