U.K., U.S., Australia, Gates Foundation Promise Funds To GAVI Alliance At Pledging Conference

At a pledging conference for the GAVI Alliance in London on Monday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft founder, announced his foundation will provide an additional $1 billion in funding for the organization over the next five years, while Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said his country will provide $210 million over the next three years, Reuters reports (Croft/Kelland, 6/13).

In a statement, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the U.S. will provide $450 million over the next 3 years, subject to congressional approval, to GAVI. “This multi-year commitment leverages the billions of dollars that other donors have committed to GAVI, multiplying the impact of our funding more than eight-fold,” according to the statement. Shah also said that within the next year, the U.S. “will host a high-level conference to assess progress against achieving impact based on the immunization pledges made” at the GAVI conference (6/13).

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting the meeting, also announced the U.K. would provide an additional 814 million pounds to GAVI over the next five years to help vaccinate 80 million children, according to the Daily Mail. Cameron’s announcement came as part of his government’s plan to spend 0.7 percent of gross domestic product on foreign aid by 2013 (6/13). Writing in a commentary in the Guardian on Saturday, Cameron defended the plan in light of austerity measures, saying increasing aid was “right” because it will save lives and it is in the national interest (6/11).

GAVI is seeking to raise $3.7 billion, which will help it “prevent 4 million child deaths by 2015 with immunisation campaigns reaching more than 240 million children,” according to Reuters. “High-level representatives from the United States, Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Japan and others are expected to be around the table,” the news agency writes (Kelland, 6/12).

In a press release, GAVI said the new pledges are “timely,” noting that the group “recently reported [that] a record 50 countries applied for vaccine funding during the Alliance’s latest application round – nearly double the previous record in 2007. This new support will allow GAVI to fully fund approved applications” (6/13).

According to a new report from Save The Children, “there are still around 24 million children – the world’s poorest, and those most vulnerable to disease – that have no access to vaccines,” the Daily Mail notes.

“Some relief groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam are urging the international vaccine agency to negotiate harder with drug companies for lower prices on vaccines to immunize the world’s poor,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Whalen, 6/13). According to the Financial Times, “Critics say the GAVI also needs to tackle concerns over potential conflicts of interest, given that its board includes manufacturers of vaccines, countries that receive vaccines and international organisations, including the World Health Organisation, that it also funds” (Jack/Manson, 6/12).

In addition, “campaigners are calling for vaccine production to be transferred to Africa to save money and contribute to the continent’s broader economic development,” SciDevNet writes (Sharma, 6/10).

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