The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday announced a five-year $1.6 billion funding pledge to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to deliver lifesaving vaccines to the world's poorest countries.
The commitment was announced at the Global Vaccine Summit 2020, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
According to the summit, the funding will help the Alliance reach an additional 300 million children in the world's most vulnerable communities and save up to eight million lives, bringing the total number of children immunized with Gavi's support to more than one billion since its inception in 2000.
A three-month-old baby, Belindah Nailaintei, receives an oral polio vaccine at Iloodariak Dispensary in the County of Kajiado, Kenya on May 15, 2019. (Photo: Gates Archive)
In addition to supporting the continuation of routine immunization services during the current COVID-19 crisis, Gavi will play a vital role in efforts to end the pandemic, leveraging its two decades of experience in vaccine delivery to deploy potential COVID-19 vaccines to low income countries once they become available.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said, "Not many people outside the global health sector have heard about Gavi, but over the past 20 years, it has transformed the way the world invests in and protects the health of its children."
"If the current pandemic has reminded us of anything, it's the importance of vaccinating against deadly diseases. The pledges that leaders are making today will help Gavi save even more lives," she said.
Working closely with developing country governments, vaccine suppliers, donors, and other partners around the world, Gavi has achieved extraordinary results.
Yet, despite this unprecedented progress, one in ten children still did not receive basic vaccines in 2018. In addition, as COVID-19 disrupts health systems, supply chains, and the ability of health workers to safely reach communities, millions more are at risk of missing out on protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said, "To beat the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs more than breakthrough science. It needs breakthrough generosity. And that's what we're seeing today as leaders across the public and private sectors are stepping up to support Gavi."
"When COVID-19 vaccines are ready, this funding and global coordination will ensure that people all over the world will be able to access them," he said.
According to a press release, the Gates Foundation has supported Gavi since its founding more than two decades ago. In that time, Gavi has immunized more than 750 million children, saved 13 million lives, and cut child mortality in half in supported countries.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the Gavi Board, said, "As we enter one of the toughest periods in our history, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting vaccine programmes across the globe and causing huge economic damage, this pledge will play a vital role in supporting countries' efforts to prevent the resurgence of other deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases."