A Major World Vaccine Event Is Coming to the UK. Here's Why That's a Big Deal.
The life-saving potential of this will be enormous.
The UK has just announced that it will be hosting a major international conference on vaccines in 2020 — all to raise funds for life-saving vaccines for some of the poorest children in the world.
Political leaders, civil society, public and private donors, vaccine manufacturers, and governments will all assemble to help support the global vaccination body Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The conference is a replenishment for Gavi — which basically means a top-up of funding — and it’s the third replenishment Gavi’s had.
The potential impact for global health from this replenishment is enormous.
The first replenishment, hosted in London in 2011, raised $4.3 billion; the second, in Berlin in 2015, raised $7.5 billion. The third will be aiming to raise enough funding to ensure its work can continue to be as effective in the 2021-25 period.
Since its creation in 2000, Gavi has ensured 700 million children were immunised. That’s equivalent to having immunised every living person born in the Middle East and Africa in those 18 years — and it’s saved an estimated 10 millions lives.
Just recently, Gavi helped protect more than 450,000 people in Yemen, by delivering the first ever cholera vaccination campaign. Yemen’s cholera epidemic — the worst in the world — erupted in April 2017 and, by October 2018, around 1.2 million suspected cases had been reported, with children accounting for about 30% of infections.
In its 18 years, Gavi has also boosted vaccine coverage from 60% to 80% in the countries that it supports.
In fact, according to Gavi, no other health intervention has impacted so many lives in the mission to end extreme poverty.
Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary, made the announcement on Wednesday, saying that she’s “delighted” the UK will be hosting the conference.
“Immunisation is a vital part of all our lives and no child should suffer at the hands of a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Mordaunt. “But tragically, over half a million children continue to die in Africa every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Fantastic to see @DFID_UK continue its leadership on global health by hosting the @Gavi replenishment in 2020. We're so proud that #UKAid has helped immunise over 700 million children through this life-saving fund. Thank you @PennyMordaunt! ✊— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) February 13, 2019
“By bringing together international donors at this conference we can help create a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world which is in all of our interests,” she said.
The announcement comes at an important time for the UK in shaping how it’s going to be seen on the global stage post-Brexit.
And, according to the government statement, “hosting this conference demonstrates the UK’s ongoing commitment to global health security and creating equal access to vaccines for children, wherever they live.”
“UK aid already supports Gavi and our contribution will vaccinate 76 million children, saving 1.4 million lives from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2020,” added the statement, from the Department for International Development (DfID).
But Gavi doesn’t just fund vaccination programmes — it also works with countries to help them become financially self-supporting too.
Even the poorest country has to contribute some of their own money towards each vaccine delivered by Gavi. Then, as countries get richer, their governments put more and more of their own money in until they’re fully funded by themselves.
The system has already helped 15 countries to transition out of Gavi support and fund 100% of their own vaccination programmes.
I’m delighted that we will be returning to the UK for our replenishment next year. The UK is @Gavi’s largest donor & supports our mission in many other ways – through crucial vaccine research, innovations in delivery and immunization advocacy. https://t.co/HdLDHBGrLW@DFID_UKpic.twitter.com/zQ0G1LkRY6— Seth Berkley (@GaviSeth) February 13, 2019
Last year, for example, Senegal became the first Gavi-supported country in West Africa to introduce the HPV vaccine into its routine immunisation programme — protecting 200,000 9-year-old girls against cervical cancer.
According to Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley, the UK has been “one of our strongest supporters” ever since it helped create Gavi nearly two decades ago.
“But for us, British support means more than the vital funding and guidance we receive from the UK government,” he added. “The UK supports Gavi’s mission in many other ways, from British innovations like GSK’s life-saving vaccines or Dulas’ solar vaccine fridges, to British academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine or Imperial College London, to British advocates like Comic Relief or Save the Children.”