Qatar, Gavi join forces to target out-of-school children

Alliance pairs with Qatar foundation Education Above All to tackle low vaccine rates in developing nations

The GAVI global vaccine alliance is to join with Qatar’s Education Above All (EAA) foundation to tackle low immunisation rates among out-of-school children in Asia and Africa, in a dual bid to improve health and education in poorer nations.

The initiative, which is likely to roll out in early 2017, will see Gavi leverage EAA’s existing staff, offices and partnerships to reach communities with out-of-school children, where low levels of vaccination have been recorded.

“The idea is not to duplicate our efforts,” said Faisal Gilani, Gavi senior manager for resource mobilisation and private sector partnerships, Middle East and Africa.

“We will use EAA or their partners’ infrastructure on the ground to minimise our costs, but maximise our outreach.”

In a statement, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, founder and chairperson of EAA, said the tie-up was “just one example of the role education can play as a driver for human development” in deprived communities.

Among EAA’s four programmes, Educate a Child (EAC), launched in 2012, aims to enroll 10 million out-of-school children into education schemes by the year-end.

Globally, some 263 million children – or nearly 1 in 10 - do not attend school, according to the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO. Many live in areas of conflict; others are girls living in societies that are reluctant to enroll females in school. Others have no local access to schools or other education facilities.

Vaccination can also be patchy within these communities. By capitalising on EAA’s existing outreach efforts, Gavi aims to gather health data and tackle gaps in coverage.

The programme could also assist in the broader rollout of newer vaccines, such as the HPV jab. The vaccine, which is intended to prevent cervical cancer, is typically administered to girls between 9 and 13 through schools, but has yet to be added to some national immunisation schedules.

“This initiative may help us to get a step ahead,” Gilani said.

Gavi and EAA are in the process of designing pilot schemes within three possible locations: Sudan, Pakistan or Uganda. If these prove successful, the initiative may be deployed in other countries, Gilani said.   

Geneva-based Gavi has succeeded in immunising almost 580 million children since 2000, averting more than 8 million deaths. Using funding from sources such as governments and the Gates Foundation, the alliance bulk-buys and delivers vaccine programmes in poorer nations unable to afford shots at market prices.

According to Gavi, for each $1 spent on vaccines, $18 are saved in healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity

In 2015, Qatar pledged $10m over a four-year period to support the alliance in delivering vaccination campaigns to children in developing countries.