Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) welcome the opportunity to make rotavirus vaccine available to more children living in humanitarian crises thanks to a landmark pricing agreement with the manufacturer, GSK.
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.
“We welcome this engagement from manufacturers and hope it will be a step towards making more vaccines available in the future at affordable prices,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO. “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.”
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in children under 5 years globally, responsible for up to 200,000 child deaths each year. Children in refugee camps and displaced communities are 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 organizations working in countries affected by emergencies, where access and prices have otherwise been a bottleneck.
“Every day across the globe, 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,” said Rachel Cummings, Director of the Humanitarian Public Health Team at Save the Children.