Bill Gates Calls For Greater Immunization Efforts In World Health Assembly Address

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on Tuesday called for a “Decade of Vaccines” in a keynote address at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, saying strengthening immunization programs against infectious diseases worldwide could save 10 million lives by 2020, Reuters reports. He said countries should aim for 90 percent immunization coverage against diseases such as polio, meningitis and pneumonia and said pharmaceutical companies should work to make existing and new vaccines affordable to developing countries, according to the news agency (Nebehay, 5/17).

According to a Gates Foundation press release, beginning in 2012, the foundation “would bestow an award on an individual or organization that has made a uniquely innovative contribution to the Decade of Vaccines. The innovation could be in the science, the delivery, or the financing of vaccines” (5/17).

In an interview with Agence France-Presse ahead of his speech, he specifically “called on African countries to work harder to get life-saving vaccines to children, as their sluggishness could derail efforts to save millions of lives and stamp out deadly diseases,” and he “told AFP that poor governance often caused children to miss out on life-saving drugs” (Blandy, 5/16).

On Monday in Oslo, Gates met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to discuss mobilizing other countries and private donors to scale up efforts to vaccinate children in developing countries ahead of a June pledging conference for the GAVI Alliance, according to a press release from the Office of the Prime Minister (5/16).