GAVI Alliance provides $162M for measles outbreaks

The board of the GAVI Alliance decided on Wednesday to provide as much as an additional $162 million to prevent and control measles outbreaks in developing countries.

The funding is meant to aid countries in bridging the gaps in their attempts to build sustainable systems to control the potentially deadly disease. Up to $107 million will be available for prevention and control of measles in Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Afghanistan. An additional $55 million will be offered for rapid response vaccination campaigns through the Measles & Rubella Initiative in countries eligible for GAVI funding.

"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, the chair of the GAVI Alliance board, said. "This strategic investment is critical for the countries where children are at highest risk of infection."

While increased routine vaccination has resulted in a 74 percent drop in measles mortality from 535,000 deaths in 2000 to 139,000 in 2010, progress has stalled as a result of outbreaks in Africa and India.

"Measles is the 'canary in the coal mine' because outbreaks can signal that routine immunization coverage is faltering," Seth Berkley, the CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said. "In order to eliminate measles, vaccine coverage must be at least 90 percent 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."