Public Release:  GAVI boosts global response to measles outbreaks

New investment tops year of progress in providing world's poorest children with equitable access to life-saving vaccines

Burness Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C. 13 June 2012 -- 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.

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.

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."

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.

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The GAVI Alliance is a public-private partnership aimed at improving health in the world's poorest countries. The Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

GAVI support consists of providing life-saving vaccines and strengthening health systems. Since its establishment in 2000, GAVI has financed the immunisation of more than 326 million children and prevented more than five million and a half premature deaths.

For more information, please visit: www.gavialliance.org

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