TACKLING the worrying resurgence of measles cases worldwide has come to the forefront of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s global strategy, where up to 45 million children across seven developing countries are intended to be vaccinated. This mission was outlined in a press release at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in London, UK, dated February 4th, 2020. The campaigns will be facilitated through partnership between national governments and Gavi, with additional support from Vaccine Alliance and Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
Past international efforts had seen reported measles cases worldwide fall from over 850,000 in 2000 to 132,000 in 2016, largely attributed to the increased attention given to less economically developed countries in which financial restrictions can stifle progress. Worryingly however, incidence rates have dramatically rose, with nearly 360,000 reported cases globally in 2018 and provisional estimates from the WHO of almost 430,000 in 2019.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, lamented: “The measles vaccine is safe, effective, and low-cost – there is no reason children should still be dying of this disease.” Noting that poor healthcare system management leads to children facing the disease without appropriate support or access to vaccination, Dr Berkley called on the need for tailored and targeted approaches in these campaigns to ensure no child is left behind. Children under the age of five are the demographic most vulnerable to the disease.
These tailored strategies are to be focussed initially in seven countries. Gavi intend to fund measles-rubella vaccination in Bangladesh (<5 years old: >15.5 million; 5–9 years old: 17.0 million), Kenya (up to 7.0 million children), and Nepal (approximately 3.0 million children), as well as measles vaccination in the Central African Republic (approximately 1.0 million children [second phase of a campaign begun last year]), Ethiopia (approximately 15.0 million children), Somalia (approximately 1.4 million children [continuation of a campaign begun last year]), and South Sudan (>2.5 million children).
Additional to this support, Gavi, with assistance from Vaccine Alliance partners, will aid Mauritania and Madagascar in modifying their routine immunisation programmes so as to include a second dose of measles-containing vaccine, translating into >1 million children between the two countries being vaccinated each year. This second dose is believed to elicit an approximate 13% increase (from 84 to 97%) in effectiveness.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, proclaimed that “WHO is proud to be working with Gavi and partners to ensure lifesaving measles vaccines reach where they are needed most.”