Gates Foundation Pledges $10 Billion to Fund Vaccines
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have pledged $10 billion dollars to support research and access to immunizations worldwide over the next ten years. Mr. Gates, who made the announcement at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, predicts that the plan could potentially prevent nearly 8 million child deaths.
The investment is the biggest pledge ever made by a charitable organization to a single cause, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, called the commitment “unprecedented.”
The contribution doubles that of past foundation pledges. Over the previous 10 years, the foundation committed $4.5 billion and was instrumental in establishing the GAVI alliance, a partnership that channels money for vaccines in developing nations and has reached 257 million additional children in the ten years since its inception.
"Over the last 10 years, the success of both increased vaccine coverage and getting new vaccines out has been phenomenal," Gates said. “Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries.” For example, a poor country such as Malawi in Africa can receive vaccination coverage rates similar to those in US cities. The goal of the foundation is to immunize 90% of the children in the developing world.
The vaccines will primarily treat severe diarrhea due to rotavirus and pneumonia. The foundation estimates that an additional 1.1 children could be saved with the introduction of a malaria vaccine beginning in 2014. Even more lives could be saved with vaccines developed for other illnesses common in the developing world, such as tuberculosis and AIDS.
GAVI has also worked in recent years to prevent Hepatitis B, an infection that kills over 600,000 adults per year, and Haemophilus influenza type B (HiB), a bacteria that causes meningitis and other life-threatening conditions in children.
According to WHO, global vaccination rates have reach an all-time high. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of children receiving the DTP3 vaccine in poor countries jumped from 66% to 79%. The number of people who died of measles fell worldwide by 77% since 2000, and by 92% in Africa during the same time period. Mr. Gates said in a letter that in 2008, for the first time ever, fewer than 9 million children under age 5 died as a result of the improved health conditions.
The Gates Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in the world, and previous grants have gone to such organizations as the World Food Program and the United Negro College Fund. He also donated $1.5 million for relief efforts in Haiti. The foundations belief is that every life has equal value and focuses on improving health and to ensure that all people have access to the opportunities they need to succeed.