ATHENS, July 14 (Xinhua) -- The high cost of vaccines in Greece is a significant barrier to vaccinating refugee children, the Greek branch of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday, urging major pharmaceuticals to reduce prices to save more lives.
Since April, the NGO has vaccinated more than 5,000 refugee children between six months and 15 years of age in several camps and settlements across Greece against ten diseases.
MSF paid 60 euros (68 U.S. dollars) per dose for the pneumonia vaccine. This is 20 times more than the lowest global price of the vaccine, which is roughly 2.80 euros per dose available only to the world's poorest countries, according to a press release.
Pneumonia remains the single largest killer of children under five worldwide, and is particularly acute for children living in crises. Three doses of the pneumonia vaccine are needed to provide full protection for a child.
According to UNICEF, more than 22,000 children are among the 57,000 refugees and migrants currently hosted across dozens of accommodation centers nationwide.
They have been stranded in Greece since February after the closure of the Balkan route to central Europe.
"Governments and humanitarian organizations need tools to protect children living through one of the biggest crises of our times," Apostolos Veizis, director of MSF's medical operational support unit in Greece, said.
"With the collapse of the healthcare systems in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, most children living in the camps and outside have not been immunized in their country or during the journey. These kids are living in horrendous conditions and should not pay the price of fleeing for their lives with their health," he added.
The plea was made as about 1,000 refugees and activists from across Europe staged a symbolic rally in front of the Greek parliament on Thursday calling for open borders and the improvement of living conditions in hospitality facilities.
Debt-laden Greece has been praised for the solidarity showed to refugees since early 2015 when more than one million people started risking their lives to cross into Europe from Turkey.
Despite some progress being made, Athens requests European partners more financial support and fair relocation of thousands of refugees to other European countries. Enditem