At the Gavi Pledging Conference in Berlin this week, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a total of US$7.5 billion (€6.6 billion) was pledged by donors to help buy vaccines for children who need them most.
Experts predict that these additional vaccines – which come on top of existing funds earmarked for immunisation programmes – could also deliver an economic benefit ranging from US$80bn (€71bn)to US$100bn (€88bn) by helping people to stay healthy and productive while reducing the strain on health systems.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a public-private partnership. It was launched in the year 2000 when the WHO, Unicef, philanthropists, governments, vaccine companies and NGOs came together to improve access to vaccines.
Gavi has already immunised around half a billion children who would not otherwise have been protected against vaccine-preventable illnesses and plans to save many more.
This week’s conference brought together some of the world’s most powerful politicians, industrialists and civil society organisations in a united front against vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.
“There is a long way still to go but this conference is an important milestone in the work of Gavi for the next few years to come,” said Chancellor Merkel. “Please let us not fail, let us not lose courage but continue to put all our efforts into this wonderful work and thank all of those who are committed to this goal.”
This was echoed by Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, who described it as “a great day for children in the world’s poorest countries who will now receive the life-saving vaccines they need”.
For the first time, the broad public-private partnership attracted pledges from China, Oman, Quarter and Saudi Arabia.
Developing countries are also increasing their financial contributions towards immunisation. Between 2016 and 2020, Gavi forecasts that implementing countries will allocate a combined total of around US$ 1.2 billion, which is additional to the funding provided by donors, towards their Gavi-supported programmes through the Alliance’s co-financing policy.
“Thanks to the joint commitments of developing countries, development partners, vaccine manufacturers and others, Tanzania is making great strides in protecting its children through immunisation,” said President Kikwete of Tanzania. “The health and wellbeing of our children should always be our highest priority and in the future Tanzania will be able to fully support its own immunisation programmes. Until that time I am pleased that the Gavi partners continue to recognise the importance of the work to improve immunisation around the world.”
Gavi said that vaccine manufacturers had committed to maintaining affordable vaccine prices, a move that will not only help the organisation to buy more doses with the money secured but also increase the sustainability of vaccine programmes. Countries whose economic status means they are no longer eligible for Gavi support will still have access to many vaccines at the same price Gavi pays for a number of years.
“Thanks to our donors, Gavi will be able to support developing countries to protect the lives of hundreds of millions of children,” said Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the Gavi Board. “We believe that vaccines should reach every child because this is one of the most effective ways of reducing preventable deaths in the poorest countries. The commitments made today will ensure Gavi can make a telling contribution towards the global community’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.”