Thanks to childhood immunisation, around 122 million people are alive today who would otherwise not have survived childhood. That’s because, since 1990, millions more babies have been vaccinated against childhood illnesses such as measles and pneumonia.
Celebrating this fact in their annual Gates Letter, Bill & Melinda Gates thank Warren Buffett, an investor and philanthropist who donated $31 billion – the bulk of his immense fortune – to reducing global inequality. A big part of the deal is increasing vaccination coverage.
Melinda Gates describes vaccines as the biggest reason for the fall in global childhood mortality. “They’re an incredible investment,” she says. “The pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five deadly infections in a single shot, now costs under a dollar.”
This sentiment is echoed by Bill Gates: “And for every dollar spent on childhood immunisations, you get $44 in economic benefits. That includes saving the money that families lose when a child is sick and a parent can’t work.”
Aiming for 100% coverage
Never ones to rest on their laurels, the Gates Foundation, through GAVI, the vaccine alliance, is striving to bring vaccines to even more children. Eventually, they hope that every kid in the world will have access to childhood immunisations.
But behind the statistics are stories of lives saved thanks to vaccination – and lives lost in places where vaccines were not readily available.
The Gates Foundation and Warren Buffet are not the only ones prioritising vaccination, of course. UNICEF continues to bring childhood immunisation to countries around the world, including those living in war zones and refugee camps.
Vaccines are saving three million lives per year. And could save even more.