Urgent funding needed to reach the 2010 measles goal, says Measles Initiative

Friday, October 10, 2008

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to humans and the only way to prevent the disease is through vaccination. An estimated 242 000 people, the majority of them children, died from measles in 2006. The failure to deliver at least one dose of measles vaccine to all infants remains the primary reason for high measles mortality.

It costs less than US $1 to immunize a child against measles, making it one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. Investing in the goal to reduce global measles deaths by 90% between 2000-10 also strengthens national immunization programs, improves health systems in the long-term and significantly contributes to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goal Four to reduce under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.

The Measles Initiative, launched in 2001, has invested about US $430 million in measles control activities and this investment has saved up to 2.3 million lives. A strategy to reduce measles mortality, which includes vaccinating all children against measles before their first birthday via routine health services and providing a second opportunity for measles vaccination through mass campaigns, has been key to ensuring the 68% reduction in global measles deaths.

Partners meeting in Washington DC at the 8th annual Measles Initiative Advocacy Meeting highlighted that the funding for measles activities in 2009-10 has not been fully secured as donors have not kept pace with country demands for support for this important public health program. So the recent gains in measles control are in danger of being lost, which increases the risks of outbreaks and disease importations. 
To date, all countries in the world but one have implemented the measles reduction strategy.  The world's success in reaching the measles goal also depends on one country, India, according to the Measles Initiative partnership. Measles is a major cause of childhood mortality and morbidity in India due to persistently low vaccination coverage and the lack of a second opportunity for measles immunization.

Partners agreed that achieving the measles goal hinges on:

1. Securing funding by past, existing and new donors, both public and private, to close the funding gap which currently stands at US$ 176 million for 2009-10, of which US$ 35 million is needed in 2009. New donors such as Merck joined the Initiative recently but former supporters such as the International Finance Facility for Immunization, have ceased support.
2. Securing the political commitment from the Government of India to fully implement the measles reduction strategy.
3. Sustaining the gains that have been made, especially in the African region where measles deaths have fallen by 91% between 2000-06.

About the Measles Initiative

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns worldwide. To date, the Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 500 million children in 50 countries helping reduce measles deaths by more than 68% globally and 91% in Africa between 2000-06. To learn more or make a donation, visit http://www.measlesinitiative.org/.