His message has been getting through. On Tuesday, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the lack of vaccines is a silent scourge which must be stopped.
Gates whizzed through Paris, Brussels, Strasbourg and Berlin this week (4-6 April) in a bid to protect EU aid budgets from the austerity drive which has gripped Europe in the wake of the financial crisis.
In a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the US philanthropist stressed that millions of lives can be saved through immunisation programmes.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Gates is telling European leaders that governments and organisations like the Gates Foundation must step in to support vaccination in developing countries. Spending on polio is a particular focus for Gates who believes eradication can be achieved through a concerted effort.
“Polio is the one that we’re close on. We’re down to a few thousand cases a year and if things go well in the next three or four years we could get to total eradication,” he said.
Gates has put his own money where his mouth is by pledging $10 billion to vaccination programmes and is fast-becoming one of the most outspoken advocates of immunization.
The multi-billionaire caused a media storm earlier this year when he opened fire on those who spread anti-vaccine myths accusing them of causing the deaths of children by .
Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation is running an online survey to help it decide on which of its issues it should focus its next social media campaign. The Foundation is set to launch a new Twitter account the highlight its work in one of its key areas. Among those on the table are vaccination, maternal health and HIV/AIDS.
Gates’ trip to Brussels featured a high-level meeting with the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso who made a staunch defence of vaccine programmes.
“The lack of vaccines is a silent scourge killing millions of people worldwide. We must and we can stop this! That is why the Commission is implementing a clinical trials program to translate medical research into new medicines and vaccines against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis,” said Barroso.
The programme is worth €200 million and draws on a mix of EU funding and philanthropic donations from organisations like The Gates Foundation. Barroso said there are 54 clinical trials ongoing in Africa that will help “deliver care and protection to the people”.
The Commission President thanked Gates for his commitment to the work of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), adding that the Commission itself has committed €73.4 million to GAVI since 2003 and “will step up” its contribution in the June pledging conference.
Barroso also announced that the European Commission would participate in the “Living Proof” project championed by Gates to show the impact of development projects. This, he added, would help show taxpayers that their money is being well spent.
“We know that we are living in very difficult times of budget constraints, but it is important to keep the commitment of our governments and also of our societies. So let me once again thank Bill and, indeed Bill and Melinda for their optimism, determination, their enormous generosity and their tireless work. I look forward to continuing our cooperation,” Barroso concluded.