Gates Foundation pledged US$ 750 million to set up Gavi in 1999
In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates called for "decade of vaccines"
Bill and Melinda Gates' realisation in the late 1990s that rotavirus was killing half a million children every year was one of the events that led them to set up their Foundation in 1994.
"Bill Gates often tells the story of reading a newspaper article 10 years ago about the leading causes of childhood death, including rotavirus. How is it possible, he wondered, that a disease that now kills 600,000 children per year is the focus of so little attention and investment?" recalls Dr Tachi Yamada, former president of the Foundation’s Global Health Program.
Since then, vaccines have become the Gates Foundation's biggest investment.
The realisation that children in developed countries had access to vaccines while children in developing countries were dying for lack of them prompted the Foundation to invest as a founding partner in Gavi.
The best investment we've ever made
Bill Gates, co-chair, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Source: Nature 433, 27 January 2005)
The Foundation's initial five-year pledge of US$ 750 million in 1999 provided the seed money to launch Gavi. In 2005, it pledged a further US$ 75 million a year up to 2014 followed by another US$ 1 billion pledge at the June 2011 Gavi Pledging Conference, bringing the Foundation's total commitment to Gavi to US$ 2.5 billion.
By supporting Gavi, the Foundation aims to accelerate access of developing countries to vaccines and support research into health solutions for these countries that are effective, affordable and sustainable.
In its first 10 years, Gavi has been instrumental in promoting access to new vaccines for hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b and pentavalent vaccine, which tackles five diseases in one shot. More recently the Foundation and Gavi have supported new vaccines against rotavirus and pneumonia. In 2009, Bill Gates expressed the hope that the new rotavirus vaccine could reach half the children who needed it within six years.
Advance Market Commitment
Role on the Gavi Board
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a permanent seat on the Gavi Board, held by Dr Jaime Sepulveda, director of the Foundation's Special Initiatives in Global Health, who also chairs Gavi's Executive Committee. The Foundation is also represented in Gavi's Programme and Policy Committee and other bodies guiding the activities of the Vaccine Alliance.
The Foundation has also worked with Vaccine Alliance partners to develop the pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment (AMC) strategy for accelerating the manufacture and delivery of pneumococcal vaccine to developing countries.
"We believe this will make a big difference in how quickly this vaccine gets to poor children and show how this approach can be applied to other medicines," Bill Gates wrote in his 2010 annual newsletter.
Decade of vaccines
Creating and delivering vaccines remains the Foundation's "number one global health priority." In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates called for the next 10 years to be a "Decade of Vaccines", setting the goal of preventing four million deaths a year by increasing access to effective but underused vaccines and introducing new vaccines.