[Ip-health] Global vaccination community turns its back on getting new vaccines to refugee children: MSF

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Aug 8 02:37:52 PDT 2013

*Global vaccination community turns its back on getting new vaccines to
refugee children*

*MSF starts first use of pneumococcal vaccine in South Sudan*


*Geneva, 8 August 2013*—As Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) starts
vaccinating against pneumonia in Yida refugee camp, South Sudan, the
international medical humanitarian organisation warned that the global
vaccination community is neglecting the roll out of new vaccines among
crisis-affected children.

While planning to immunise children against pneumococcal diseases in Yida
camp, MSF faced multiple barriers trying to purchase newer vaccines at an
affordable price and was left struggling to navigate bureaucratic policies
that exclude the needs of conflict-affected populations.

“Refugee children are incredibly vulnerable to developing
vaccine-preventable diseases, so why do we keep hearing the players in the
global vaccination community tell us these kids aren’t their problem,” said
Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor at MSF’s Access Campaign. “We should be
making every effort for refugee children to benefit from the newest
vaccines, instead of letting them languish in the global community’s blind

Newer vaccines have primarily been introduced in poor countries with
support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI
Alliance), but GAVI does not cover vaccination in refugee and
crisis-affected populations, leaving major unmet needs. Moreover,
discounted prices that GAVI is able to negotiate are not systematically
available to humanitarian actors working in crisis contexts. Despite
requests to the actors involved, including pharmaceutical companies Pfizer
and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) that produce these new vaccines, and GAVI, a low
global price for humanitarian organisations such as MSF has not been

Sudanese refugees began streaming across the border into South Sudan in
June 2011 when conflict erupted between the Khartoum government and the
rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Sudan’s
South Kordofan State. At the height of the crisis in Yida camp last
summer, high
mortality rates were reported among young children admitted in MSF’s
hospital with respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia, one of the
leading causes of death. Refugee camp conditions make children particularly
vulnerable to pneumococcus, the most common bacteria causing pneumonia, as
crowding and exposure to multiple different strains of the bacteria lead to
increased risk.

“The situation in Yida last year was excruciating, with children dying of
diseases that vaccines could have protected them against,” said Audrey
Landmann, MSF project coordinator in Yida at the time.

MSF determined that vaccinating with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
(PCV) could result in a substantial mortality reduction in Yida. This is
one of the first times that PCV is being used in a refugee camp, and the
first time in South Sudan.

MSF has been working since September 2012 to procure PCV for use in Yida
camp but has faced significant delays because of lengthy negotiations and
international legal procurement constraints. The companies making the
vaccines made an ad hoc donation offer, but MSF tries to avoid donations
because it seeks a sustainable solution to this problem so it can act
swiftly in similar contexts. MSF was eventually able to obtain the vaccine
from GSK at a reduced price, but delays have now pushed the planned
vaccination into the logistically-challenging rainy season.

“We’ve been trying for more than four years to find a solution for regular
and affordable access to newer vaccines so we can act fast when we need to,
but we still have no solution for refugees,” said Dr. Greg Elder, Deputy
Director of Operations for MSF in Paris. “We need pharmaceutical companies
and GAVI to offer humanitarian organisations the lowest global price for
newer vaccines. We can help to save young lives in crisis, just let us do

*Present in Yida since October 2011, MSF currently runs one primary health
care center (average 10,000 consultations per month), a 60-bed hospital, a
malnutrition treatment unit, and has mobile medical teams that move
throughout the camp. MSF is also involved in water supply and latrine
construction. From May 2012 to May 2013, MSF treated nearly 3,000 severely
malnourished children in Yida. *

*MSF has been working in the region that today constitutes the Republic of
South Sudan since 1983. MSF is working in six out of South Sudan's ten
states, responding to emergencies such as large-scale displacements of
people, influxes of refugees, malnutrition crises and outbreaks of malaria
and kala azar, in addition to providing basic and specialized health care

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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