February 2, 2010

Decade of Vaccines: Gates Foundation Pledges $10 Billion to Fight Childhood Diseases

At the 40th annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, the Bill and Melinda Gates announced “that their foundation will commit $10 billion over the next 10 years to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest countries,” according to a Gates Foundation press release. “The Gateses said that increased investment in vaccines by governments and the private sector could help developing countries dramatically reduce child mortality by the end of the decade, and they called for others to help fill critical financing gaps in both research funding and childhood immunization programs.”

The Seattle, Washington-based philanthropic organization said that it “used a model developed by a consortium led by the Institute of International Programs at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to project the potential impact of vaccines on childhood deaths over the next 10 years. By significantly scaling up the delivery of life-saving vaccines in developing countries to 90 percent coverage—including new vaccines to prevent severe diarrhea and pneumonia—the model suggests that we could prevent the deaths of some 7.6 million children under 5 from 2010-2019. The foundation also estimates that an additional 1.1 million children could be saved with the rapid introduction of a malaria vaccine beginning in 2014, bringing the total number of potential lives saved to 8.7 million.”

An article by Seattle Times writers Sandi Doughton and Kristi Heim says that the Gateses’ pledge “ranks as the biggest philanthropic pledge ever to a single cause….The $10 billion pledge represents a doubling of Gates Foundation spending on vaccines. The Chronicle of Philanthropy said the amount is more than the entire assets of the Ford Foundation, America's second wealthiest foundation — after Gates.”

The foundation’s announcement notes that the new funding “is in addition to the $4.5 billion that the Gates Foundation has already committed to vaccine research, development and delivery to date across its entire disease portfolio since its inception.” The foundation's initial vaccine investments created an organization called the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, or GAVI, which was launched at the World Economic Forum ten years ago.

The GAVI Alliance, the Gates Foundation explained, “has reached 257 million additional children with new and underused vaccines, and prevented 5 million future deaths. In the coming years, GAVI will focus on rapidly introducing vaccines to tackle diarrhea and pneumonia.” Billions more are needed, however, “from other donors to achieve the goal of 90 percent coverage of childhood immunization. Critical funding gaps exist at GAVI and in the global polio and measles programs, and more support is needed for the research and development necessary to produce new vaccines.”

The Gates Foundation occasionally receives criticism for not doing enough to help impoverished adults in the developing world. Responding to this issue during the January 29, 2010 press conference, Melinda Gates said that the foundation, with the help of Warren Buffet’s financial support, contributed to the “Green Revolution” in Africa that increases the productivity of small farms, moving tens of millions of people out of extreme poverty and significantly reducing hunger. In addition, said Mrs. Gates, the foundation is supporting innovative microsavings programs to help those who do not have access to traditional financial services to deposit funds in safe and secure bank accounts. For additional information about the foundation’s support of microsavings, please read “Gates Foundation to Help Poor People Save Money.” The press conference may be viewed in its entirety in the video below:

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