WHO welcomes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledge of US$ 10 billion over the next ten years to accelerate global vaccine efforts. "The Gates Foundation’s commitment to vaccines is unprecedented, but needs to be matched by unprecedented action. It’s absolutely crucial that both governments and the private sector step up efforts to provide life-saving vaccines to children who need them most," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. Vaccines and immunization have played a major role since the last century in overall health gains.
Smallpox has been eradicated, polio is on the verge of being eradicated and more than 2 million deaths are averted each year. "Building on these achievements, we can take immunization to the next level, with the expanded uptake of new vaccines against major killers such as pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhoea," said Dr Chan. "An additional two million deaths in children under five years could be prevented by 2015 through widespread use of new vaccines and a 10% increase in global vaccination coverage." Vaccines join other proven measures, such as micronutrient supplements, oral rehydration therapy, and community delivery of antibiotics, that form an integrated approach to child health and have already brought much progress.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announcement comes on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). Dr Chan also congratulated the GAVI Alliance on their accomplishment of reaching 257 million additional children with new and underused vaccines.