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A new measles-rubella vaccine for those who need it most

October 7, 2019 by PATH

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Sulochana (purple sari) holding Narendra, her five-month-old infant. Narendra received his measles vaccine. With another low-cost vaccine made available, more children like Narendra will be protected. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

The World Health Organization just prequalified a new measles-rubella vaccine, creating another affordable option for low-income countries and easing the strain of vaccine supply.

While vaccine hesitancy has fueled preventable measles outbreaks in the United States and Europe, for most countries, lack of vaccine availability and access is the bigger culprit—and we have good news on this front.

Thanks to a partnership between PATH and Biological E (BioE), a leading vaccine manufacturer in India, a new measles-rubella vaccine has been prequalified by the World Health organization. The approval unlocks another affordable vaccine option and bolsters supply security.

Securing robust and affordable measles-rubella (MR) vaccine supply is critical: few diseases are more contagious than measles, and few public health interventions have had such a dramatic and rapid impact as the introduction of the measles vaccine. Like measles, rubella is known for the long-term health consequences it can wreak on children less than five years old. Given the high risk of death or debilitating complications malnourished children face, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends tackling these illnesses together with the MR vaccine. Unfortunately, adequate supply is a challenge. For these reasons, MR vaccines are on the priority list for WHO prequalification.

WHO prequalification is a certification process that allows a vaccine product to appear on the list of options for vaccines to be procured through common subsidized funding mechanisms like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and/or UNICEF. It means a vaccine has achieved WHO’s standards for manufacturing, safety, and efficacy, and it is the culmination of a vaccine’s development journey that is several years in the making.

In the case of this new MR vaccine, PATH partnered with BioE beginning at the research and development phase. As the vaccine product moved through clinical trials to demonstrate safety and efficacy, PATH provided technical assistance and expertise to improve BioE’s manufacturing process and increase its production capacity. Eventually, we provided input into the design of a new facility dedicated solely to MR vaccine production to ensure a robust supply and supported BioE through the process of WHO prequalification.

PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access and BioE are guided by principles of accessibility and affordability for the communities who most need vaccines. The MR vaccine partnership with BioE is one of many examples of PATH’s work to build the capacity of developing-country vaccine manufacturers, which is critical to strengthening vaccine supply, lowering prices, and accelerating the availability of new vaccines to all children, everywhere.

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