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A general view to Davos, which hosts the on the World Economic Forum.
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Health

This Global Health Agency Just Turned 20. To Celebrate, It’s Going to Vaccinate 300 Million Children.


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Vaccines are a crucial component of ensuring United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 on good health and well-being for all. Good health for all is at the very foundation of all of the SDGs. If a child is sick, they cannot attend school (SDG 4), without an education, they cannot secure a good job and income (SDGs 8 and 10), which furthers the cycle of poverty (SDG 1), and affects entire communities. Join Global Citizen and take action here to help achieve the SDGs and end extreme poverty.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance marked its 20th anniversary at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday — and the global health initiative certainly has a lot to celebrate. 

Launched at the WEF in 2000, Gavi’s inception came at a time when global immunization efforts were at a standstill and millions of children in low-income countries lacked access to basic vaccines.

But since then, Gavi has reached 760 million children with vaccines and saved more than 13 million lives.

“The Gavi model has been one of the best examples of an alliance — of committed individuals, institutions, partners — coming together for a common purpose, to reduce under-5 child mortality, largely through the prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Christopher Elias, president of global development programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said at the Gavi event in Davos.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided the initial pledge of $750 million to launch Gavi, but Elias said that commitment was really meant to bring others together, which is essentially what it did.

Gavi works as a partnership between public and private sectors, and its main aim is to increase the accessibility of vaccines. It has done so by the delivery of vaccines, but also by successfully working to make vaccines more affordable, and by creating a shift in the global vaccine market.

Gavi plans to have vaccinated 1.1 billion children and saved 22 million lives by the end of 2025 — but if the organization is going to succeed, it needs another $7.4 billion. 

Gavi launched its third replenishment at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama, Japan, in August 2019, but the official replenishment conference — which offers donors the opportunity to commit new funding — will be held in London in June this year.

The health initiative is calling on donor countries, partners, and philanthropists to commit for the period of 2021 to 2025 so that Gavi can deliver 300 million vaccines during that four-year period. That alone would save 7 to 8 million lives.

The world has seen great progress when it comes to global health: polio is 99.9% eradicated; child mortality rates have been significantly reduced; and immunization coverage has greatly improved around the world.

Today, 90% of children get at least one dose of vaccine, Seth Berkley, Gavi’s CEO, said at the event in Davos.

While that shows great movement, it still means that 10% of children are being left behind. Because vaccines are the most widely-used health intervention, Berkley explained that it’s likely the children that are part of that 10% do not have access to other health care services either.

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Moving forward, Gavi plans to focus on working with countries with that gap in immunization coverage. Berkley noted that when Gavi launches an immunization program, they aren’t just bringing vaccines to regions that need them — the delivery necessitates health workers, a supply chain, a data system, and more, which then sets these areas up with the infrastructure needed to successfully introduce primary health care.

“Not every country will be able to completely reform their health systems by 2030,” Berkley said. “But we could immunize every child and that would make a dramatic difference.”

If the replenishment goes ahead as planned, and donors step up to deliver the funding needed, Gavi will be able to continue its vital work and reach every last child with vaccines and, in turn, work to achieve Global Goal 3: good health and well-being for all.