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The power of vaccines

As CEO of the GAVI Alliance, I am coming to Davos to talk about the challenges and opportunities of public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on innovative financing. The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is the perfect place for a dialogue that brings together industry, civil society, UN agencies and countries around a shared response to the challenge of protecting children against vaccine preventable illness. In 2000, the Forum acted as midwife to the birth of GAVI and since then we have supported collaboration with a singular focus: giving children in developing countries the same protection from vaccines that children in developed countries receive.

In an increasingly complex world, we have a simple and bold vision that all children should have the opportunity to grow up healthy. The Annual Meeting 2013 theme of Dynamic Resilience challenges participants to move beyond simple solutions to strategic collaboration and new methods to create a more just and sustainable future for all.

This week, Forum participants will have the opportunity to consider global challenges, including the Millennium Development Goals. In the past, global goals have tended to be oriented around diseases as a proxy for immunization rates. I believe that the global community should now move to the idea of a “Fully Immunized Child”, which means measuring how many children have received all of the vaccines recommended by the Word Health Organization for global use that they need to keep them safe.

The pathway to a more sustainable future for all children must include access to the basic building blocks of good health, including nutrition, water and immunizations. To achieve this goal, business, governments and civil society will need to work together and find new and innovative ways to deliver vaccines equitably to all children and to measure that delivery. At GAVI, we take measurement seriously. It is the only way that we will ultimately help each country deliver on the goal of equity between and within countries.

Since 2000, in collaboration with our business, government, UN and civil society partners (many of whom are participants at the World Economic Forum), GAVI has helped to prevent more than 5.5 million deaths in the world’s poorest countries, and committed US$ 7.2 billion to new and underused vaccines and to strengthening health systems. We have added new vaccines that target the two largest killers of children – pneumonia and diarrhoea – and are now rolling out our second vaccine against HPV, which causes cervical cancer and kills 275,000 women a year. Yet, we estimate that 22 million children still lack access to vaccines, so we have our work cut out for us.

At Davos, I will be co-hosting a breakfast with Bill Gates to announce funding and partnerships made possible through the GAVI Matching Fund. The Fund is an innovative finance mechanism that matches contributions from companies, foundations, their customers, employees and business partners. The Fund also provides a setting for innovations in collaboration and the delivery of technical expertise to our shared mission of increasing access to vaccines for all children.

I have a passion and a sense of urgency about our mission because I know that vaccines offer an incredible return on investment, and that a vaccine dividend can be measured in lives improved and lives saved.

Last week GAVI convened a group of experts to examine the evidence on the value of vaccines. We knew that vaccines prevent sickness and death. But there’s also great evidence that being vaccinated helps people in many ways throughout their lives – building their health and their resilience. Children who are healthy – and have adequate nutrition – are much more likely to attend school. People who finish school, and do well, have higher earning potential in their adult lives. GAVI’s hope is that these healthy young people will enter the workforce and build the vibrant global economy of the future.

I am optimistic about the future because the evidence is clear about the economic impact of immunization. If parents don’t have to spend money on their children’s healthcare, they can use it for other purposes. If they don’t need to spend the money on health, they can spend or invest the money, which leads to economic growth in local communities and the country more broadly.

Healthy children are resilient children, and immunization is a fundamental building block for health. And the power of vaccines means that we can also target not only acute infectious diseases but also chronic infections that create chronic disease burdens that are so difficult to manage. At GAVI, we are committed to collaboration and partnership – working with business, governments, the UN and civil society to see more and more of the world’s children (and adults) fully immunized, wherever they live.

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Private Eyes for Global Health

One of the great things about visiting Japan for the IMF/WB meetings is that I will have a chance to talk about the contribution the Japanese people have made to immunization.

The Japanese people have become the world’s strongest supporters of “vaccine bonds” that help support GAVI’s work.

For the last six years, they have been buying bonds sold by the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), and the money they invest has been used by GAVI to buy vaccines for the poorest countries in the world. In all, the Japanese have purchased the equivalent of nearly US$ 2 billion in IFFIm vaccine bonds since 2006.

These everyday investors have helped protect millions of children against deadly diseases, including pneumonia, rotavirus, polio, measles, yellow fever and hepatitis. It is a powerful form of impact investing made possible through partnership with more than 20 local financial institutions in Japan, through underwriters such as Daiwa, J.P. Morgan, HSBC and Mitsubishi.

IFFIm is just one important part of a larger movement of the private sector toward supporting global health and development as well as the work of the World Bank (IFFIm’s treasury manager) and IMF. Companies are coming to realize that development aid is a collaborative process that benefits everyone – and everyone must be involved. This includes traditional government aid, of course, which remains the most important single source of funding, but also private citizens like those in Japan, companies, foundations and developing countries themselves.

Vaccines – for just a few dollars a dose – are one of the most cost-effective ways of improving living standards, health and the global economy. A child who has been vaccinated lives longer, has fewer illnesses and thereby reduces the economic strain on poor families. We also know that birth rates fall when parents are confident that their children will survive to adulthood. These factors, in turn, lead to greater educational opportunities and a more productive workforce, stronger economy and political and economic stability.

Companies have thereby come to realize that development aid is a collaborative process that benefits everyone – and everyone must be involved. This includes traditional government aid, of course, which remains the most important single source of funding, but also private citizens like those in Japan, companies, foundations and developing countries themselves.

One of the key reasons I am in Tokyo is to participate in a GAVI event on co-financing, where finance ministers and development experts will discuss the economic importance of vaccines and the importance of developing country participation.

GAVI’s business model, in fact, requires that recipient countries contribute at an appropriate level toward the cost of the vaccines they receive. This ensures that immunization programs are sustained after GAVI’s financial support ends.

To help them get there, GAVI has begun to further engage the private sector, and they are responding. Under the GAVI Matching Fund, the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged about US$ 130 million combined to match contributions from corporations, foundations, their customers, employees and business partners. To date, seven companies and foundations have become partners: Anglo American, ARK Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, J.P. Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation and LDS Charities, raising US$ 52.4 million over the past year, with the match.

In addition, corporations can share their business competencies to help solve supply chain and logistics management issues, develop more efficient cold storage and create information systems for immunization programs.

The result of all these innovations is a new world of global health development, very different than what we have seen previously at World Bank-IMF meetings. Consider: Funding from IFFIm is being used to purchase vaccines co-financed by recipient and donor countries and delivered through a supply chain aided by corporations.

This is a remarkable development, the kind of collaboration that can enable us not only to get more resources, but use those resources more effectively in years to come.

Thank you Australia and thank you Australians

I have just returned to the GAVI Alliance Secretariat in Geneva after a highly-productive trip to Australia and want to thank all our friends and colleagues Down Under for your support and leadership in global health.

Today’s publication of the Australian Multilateral Assessment highlights GAVI as one of the top performers in a crowded and competitive field of recipients of Australia’s generous aid budget.

According to this rigorous assessment of all the multilateral organisations Australia funds, GAVI has established a strong track record in delivering against its mandate to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in the world’s poorest countries.

This endorsement of our efforts to ensure that all children, wherever they are born, have access to the best vaccines available is very welcome and humbling too not only for all of us who work at the GAVI Secretariat but also the many partners that make up our unique and innovative public-private alliance.

As well as developing country and donor governments like Australia, GAVI brings together the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

Australia’s bipartisan commitment to growing the aid budget to reach 0.5% of GDP by 2015 is a fabulous example of international leadership and my meetings with Foreign Minister Bob Carr, Shadow Minister Julie Bishop, DG Peter Baxter and many others on both sides of Parliament House have cemented my faith in Australia’s moral leadership too.

Australia punches well above its weight in scientific discovery and policy approaches to public health. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to share a podium at Melbourne University with Tim Costello, Sir Gus Nossal and Kate Taylor and am happy to see that the event has been captured here for others to enjoy.

While journalists in some countries seem to have little understanding of development issues, I was impressed by the Australian media’s interest in my visit.

I had only been in the country for an hour before someone thrust a copy of The Age into my hand pointing out a great op-ed from Sydney University’s Dr Joel Negin outlining our work.

I was later delighted to be invited onto Channel Ten’s youth current affairs program, The Project, to discuss why Australia’s contribution to vaccines was so important.

This was followed by interviews on ABC TV (below) and radio:

The staff and leadership of AusAID are great GAVI partners and I really hope my visit in March has cemented our partnership.

Thank you Australia and thank you Australians.