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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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GAVI, public private partnerships and the World Economic Forum

Leaders from many fields are gathering in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. This is my seventh Davos meeting and it is always an exciting event.  Particularly as I am now representing GAVI, which was born in Davos in 2000, and which like Davos brings together leaders from many fields, in the case of GAVI to save children’s lives and protect people’s health through immunisation.

The public-private partnership is part of the GAVI Alliance’s formula for success that has helped countries to immunise 325 million children in our first 10 years, saving more than 5.5 million lives.  GAVI is about ensuring children in the poorest countries have access to the same vaccines as children in countries like Switzerland or the US.  GAVI’s accomplishments are those of its alliance partners: UNICEF, the World Bank, WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, vaccine manufacturers, civil society organisations and governments all over the world.

This year’s WEF theme of “Great transformations: Shaping new models” could easily use the GAVI Alliance as a good example of how to use new models successfully.  In fact, public-private partnerships are part of what brings me to Davos this week. I will be attending a breakfast meeting devoted to discussing a ground-breaking initiative called the GAVI Matching Fund.

The GAVI Matching Fund is an example of what can be achieved when governments, corporations, foundations and the general public work together to solve difficult problems.

Under the GAVI Matching Fund, the British government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation each has agreed to match corporate contributions to the GAVI Alliance.

They also are matching contributions made to GAVI by employees, customers, members and even business partners of those corporations and foundations.  The goal – including the match – is to raise an additional US$ 260 million for immunisation by the end of 2015.

Vaccines are extremely cost-effective, giving kids a healthy start in life and supporting the economic and educational foundations of entire communities. They directly lead to a healthy workforce which is so critical to long-term development and prosperity for all countries.

A US$ 3 million donation – matched by the UK government or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – buys enough vaccines to immunise more than 500,000 children against pneumococcal disease, one of the main causes of death from pneumonia. Or vaccinate nearly a million children against a potentially deadly form of diarrhoea caused by rotavirus.

These are among the vaccines being purchased under the GAVI Matching Fund through contriubutions made by, for instance, two of its partners: the “la Caixa” Foundation  and Absolute Return for Kids (ARK)

The WEF calls on leaders like these to help set an inspiring vision to improve the world for future generations, to demonstrate personal courage that could reshape the global economy. It is the kind of foresight shown by the UK government in expanding its commitment to global development even during challenging economic times.

In fact, UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell MP will be at the GAVI Matching Fund breakfast meeting with me, along with a couple of dozen CEOs and board members from major global corporations, such as Anglo American  and J.P. Morgan, each of which is a member of the GAVI Matching Fund.

We also will announce new members to the GAVI Matching Fund later this week at, bringing us closer to ensuring that another 225 million children are immunised and an additional 3.9 million lives are saved over the next few years.

By bringing these new partners into the GAVI family we can not only diversity our funding base but also use the skills of these partners to help drive our mission.

The GAVI Matching Fund is only a few months old but it already has raised tens of millions of dollars for children’s immunisation.

That is the kind of public-private partnership that works and represents a rare chance to be part of something that will change the lives of millions of people for the better.