GAVI Alliance addresses MSF concerns on infant Hepatitis B vaccine

Medecins Sans Frontieres recently expressed concern about the slow implementation of the World Health Organization's recommendation that a dose of hepatitis B vaccine be delivered immediately after birth.

Since 2000, the GAVI Alliance has supported infant hepatitis B vaccinations in nearly all GAVI-supported countries. Hepatitis B causes around 260,000 deaths each year in GAVI-eligible countries, according to the World Health Organization.

GAVI recently evaluated the value of providing financial support to countries that give birth doses of the hepatitis B vaccine. Fifteen vaccines were evaluated on their value and feasibility of support. The GAVI board chose not to offer financial support to countries looking to introduce birth doses of the vaccine, however, after analysis and extensive consultation.

The evaluation showed significant challenges other than the price of the vaccine for the implementation of the practice. The cost per dose of the birth dose of the vaccine was equivalent to the minimum amount of co-financing contributed to GAVI-supported vaccines by GAVI-eligible countries. Many of the births in GAVI-eligible countries also occur outside health care facilities, which would make it difficult to administer the vaccine in the 24 hour window after birth.

GAVI is focusing its limited resources on vaccines with higher impact and is open to working collectively toward encouraging greater use of the vaccine.