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GAVI Statement on an Immunization System Strengthening Approach to Measles Mortality Reduction

Of the vaccine-preventable diseases, measles is the leading killer of children accounting for nearly 800,000 deaths each year. Over half of global measles deaths occur in African infants and children. Indeed, the overwhelming majority (> 98%) of global measles deaths occur in the 74 countries eligible to receive support from the Vaccine Fund.

GAVI fully supports the 2002 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children resolution to reduce measles deaths by 50% by the year 2005 from the 1999 baseline of 875,000 deaths. Moreover, GAVI endorses the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which include the target to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds. An indicator for both of these targets is the proportion of 1-year-old children immunized against measles.

Given the availability of safe, effective and relatively inexpensive measles vaccine and proven vaccination strategies, the current global burden of measles deaths is unacceptable. Infants and children living in developing countries have the human right not to die from measles.

To achieve a sustainable reduction in measles deaths, a comprehensive vaccination strategy is needed. While the ongoing strengthening of routine immunization services is the foundation of the WHO/UNICEF recommended strategy for sustainable measles mortality reduction, periodic supplementary immunization activities are required to achieve and maintain high measles population immunity and to sustainably reduce the level of measles virus circulation. Such supplementary immunization activities may be needed until routine immunization services are able to achieve and maintain high (> 90%) coverage for both the first and second opportunities for measles immunization.

To reduce measles deaths on a long-term basis, GAVI supports the full implementation of the WHO-UNICEF recommended strategy for measles mortality reduction, including the strengthening of immunization systems and conducting periodic measles supplementary immunization activities. Moreover, GAVI supports the WHO-UNICEF Framework for Collaboration which outlines criteria that must be satisfied in national plans of action to help ensure sustainability of impact.

GAVI welcomes information about the remarkable progress that has been made in reducing measles deaths in Africa by strengthening routine immunization systems and conducting measles supplementary immunization activities through support of the Measles Initiative.

To sustainably reduce measles deaths, GAVI calls upon its partners to financially support national immunization plans, including the full implementation of measles mortality reduction strategies.


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