5th March, 2021
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has welcomed the opportunity to make rotavirus vaccine available to more children living in humanitarian crises, saying thanks to a landmark pricing agreement with the manufacturer, GSK.
WHO, in a statement posted on its website, stated that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also welcomed the development.
According to the statement, health partners welcome landmark pricing agreement through Humanitarian Mechanism, urging more manufacturers to follow suit.
“Children living in refugee camps, displaced communities or in other emergency situations now have a better chance of being protected against severe diarrhoeal disease with these lower price rotavirus vaccines.
“Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death among children under five; the agreement makes use of the multi-partner Humanitarian Mechanism, launched in 2017.
“Rotavirus vaccine is the second vaccine to be accessed through the scheme, which depends on manufacturers making their vaccines available at their lowest price for use in emergencies – across countries of all income levels.
“The first to be made available was the pneumococcal vaccine.’’
The statement quoted Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO, as saying “we welcome this engagement from manufacturers.
“We hope it will be a step towards making more vaccines available in the future at affordable prices.
“It is unacceptable that some of the most at-risk children are not vaccinated against devastating diseases like rotavirus because of lack of availability or high costs”.
According to the statement, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in children under five years globally, responsible for up to 200,000 child deaths each year.
It stated that children in refugee camps and displaced communities were among the most vulnerable in the world to such diseases, due to population density, poor hygiene and sanitation, and higher rates of malnutrition.
“Vaccination is therefore especially critical for these children, who may otherwise lack access to essential health services.
“The Humanitarian Mechanism facilitates access to vaccines for humanitarian organisations working in countries affected by emergencies, where access and prices have otherwise been a bottleneck.’’
The statement quoted Rachel Cummings, Director of the Humanitarian Public Health Team at Save the Children, as saying “every day across the globe, children die.
“Children die because they are critically weakened by diarrhoea – it’s one of the biggest killers of young children in the world.
“Save the Children is seeing the devastating impacts the rotavirus has on children every day, so we welcome this important commitment as a vital step in protecting some of the most vulnerable children from life-threatening, yet easily preventable diseases.
“Money should never be a barrier between life and death”.
Since 2017, nearly one million doses of pneumococcal vaccine have been approved for use by civil society organisations through the Mechanism in 12 countries.
The countries are Algeria, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Greece, Kenya, Lebanon, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria.
According to the UN health agency, the pneumococcal vaccine protects against childhood pneumonia, also a leading cause of childhood deaths during emergencies.
“Once secured through the Mechanism, the vaccines are offered to humanitarian organisations working in camps and other emergency settings, who can make applications to access the vaccine at these lower prices.’’
The statement also quoted Miriam Alia, Vaccination and Outbreak Response Referent at MSF, as saying “the Humanitarian Mechanism has already expanded the number of children who can receive lifesaving vaccines.
“But, to reach its full potential and save more lives, MSF calls on manufacturers to commit additional vaccines and to allow governments hosting children in humanitarian emergencies to access the vaccines too.
“Children everywhere, no matter where they live, should have access to lifesaving vaccinations.
“We know that it is critical for us to expand the reach and breadth of immunisation coverage among communities affected by humanitarian crises to meet our goal of immunisation equity in the next decade”.
Similarly, the statement further quoted Robin Nandy, UNICEF’s Principal Advisor and Chief of Immunisation as saying: “These communities bear the brunt of preventable morbidity and mortality.
“They have disproportionately suffered from programme disruptions as a result of the pandemic.
“We very much welcome this initiative which further expands access to rotavirus vaccine at affordable prices for populations in need.”