GSK vaccine reaches Sudan refugee camp

MSF (web) Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has begun vaccinating children against pneumonia in a South Sudan refugee camp, using a discounted vaccine from GSK.

The legal and economic problems faced by the medical aid agency prompted it to comment that refugees are “the global community’s blind spot”.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) does not cover refugee and crisis-affected populations, and the discounted prices it negotiates do not apply consistently in those contexts.

The underlying problem is that international arrangements regarding healthcare break down in the context of war, leaving refugees without reliable support.

Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, which has provided shelter for civilians escaping military conflict since June 2011, has seen an epidemic of child pneumonia caused by overcrowding and the presence of multiple strains of the disease.

MSF’s attempts to immunise children in the camp against pneumococcal diseases have been frustrated by bureaucratic obstacles and difficulties in negotiating an affordable price.

Pharmaceutical companies offered ad hoc vaccine donations, but MSF resisted that approach as it needs to have a sustainable supply in place to deal with future emergencies.

A low vaccines price for humanitarian relief organisations such as MSF has not yet been established. Finally, it was able to obtain the vaccine from GSK at an affordable discount.

Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor at MSF’s Access Campaign, said: “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 spot.”