Davos, Switzerland, 26 January 2007 - New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the GAVI Alliance, a groundbreaking global initiative to increase access to children's vaccines, has brought immunisation rates to record highs in poor countries.
The WHO data, released today at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, project that since 2000, GAVI-funded immunisation programmes in developing countries have prevented approximately 2.3 million future deaths, and that immunisations in 2006 alone prevented 600,000 future deaths.
Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, called the new data a highly encouraging sign of progress in global health. The Gates Foundation has committed a total of US$1.5 billion to support GAVI to date. GAVI has also received funding from 17 donor governments, including Germany, which recently committed €8 million (US$10.4 million).
"GAVI and its partners are leading a major turnaround in children's health," said Melinda Gates. "When GAVI was founded, immunisation rates in poor countries were on the decline. Today, they are at an all-time high."
Since its inception in 2000, GAVI has committed US$2.6 billion to support national immunisation programmes in more than 70 developing countries. According to the WHO projections released today, as a result of GAVI funding:
"GAVI has demonstrated that with the right resources and leadership, it is possible to make dramatic health gains in poor countries," said Bill Gates. "We need to build on this success. No child should be denied access to lifesaving immunisations."
Despite GAVI's progress, in 2005, an estimated 28 million children in developing countries were not immunised, and 2.5 million children died of vaccine-preventable diseases. To close this gap, WHO and UNICEF estimate that an additional US$10-15 billion will be needed for immunisation programmes over the next decade. More funding will be needed to introduce vaccines that are currently in the development pipeline.
GAVI commits US$500 million to strengthen health systems
In an effort to further increase global immunisation coverage, GAVI also announced today that it will invest US$500 million over five years to strengthen basic health systems in developing countries.
Weak health care infrastructure is often the main barrier to providing immunisations to children in developing countries, particularly in the poorest and most remote communities.
The new GAVI funding will provide flexible grants to developing countries for activities such as:
"This is an exciting new direction for us," said Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive Secretary of GAVI. "Developing country leaders are telling us that in order for immunisation programmes to be sustained, they need greater support for basic health infrastructure."
The first round of GAVI grants for strengthening health systems will be announced in February.