The GAVI Alliance has announced an increase in funding for measles and rubella immunization efforts, with the goal of saving more than a million lives worldwide.
With an increase in support from $600 million to $820 million for measles and rubella vaccinations between 2016 and 2020, GAVI will work to consolidate the currently fragmented approach to tackling measles in developing countries and implement robust immunization programs with high coverage rates. Under the new strategy, the alliance will support periodic, data-driven measles and rubella campaigns aimed at ensuring that children who have not been reached through routine immunization are protected; increase coverage rates for other vaccines through better coordinated immunization activities; and support the Measles & Rubella Initiative's efforts to address outbreaks.
National governments will be required to have a five-year rolling measles and rubella immunization plan that is updated annually. Countries will begin to pay a co-financing share for routine measles-rubella vaccinations or a second dose of measles vaccine — a crucial step in ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of their programs.
Despite progress in driving down the number of deaths caused by measles worldwide from more than half a million in 2000 to 114,900 in 2014, the disease still claims more than a hundred thousand lives every year, most of them children under the age of 5. And while rubella is rarely fatal, more than a hundred thousand babies are born with congenital rubella syndrome each year — the majority in Africa and Southeast Asia.
"Measles is a key indicator of the strength of a country’s immunization systems, and, all too often, it ends up being the canary in the coal mine," said GAVI CEO Seth Berkley. "Where we see measles’ outbreaks, we can be almost certain that coverage of other vaccines is also low. Today’s decision will help to not only sustainably reduce the number of deaths from measles, but it will also help countries improve their coverage with other vaccines."