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Meet the woman championing vaccines for every child, everywhere

Almost exactly a year ago, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) celebrated a huge victory, when international donors committed $7.5 billion USD to fund vaccinations for children in the world’s poorest countries. Global Citizen sat down with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance's Deputy CEO Anuradha Gupta to find out why she is so passionate about child health, and why vaccines are crucial to the fight against extreme poverty.

Why do you personally care so much about child health and vaccinations?

I’m a mother, I have children and I dedicated my life to public health. It is not acceptable to see children dying of diseases that can be prevented. As you know each year more than 1.5 million children under five die of vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccines can stop this and can even wipe out diseases from the surface of the earth. For instance, smallpox was eradicated last century and we are on the verge of eliminating polio. India, the country I come from, has been polio free for four years and I was proud to have played my part in getting rid of that terrible disease which was taking so many lives and crippling our children. The power of vaccines is truly amazing.

1 year ago Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance collected an impressive amount of $7.5 billion for the period 2016-2020. What are you planning to do with that money and what are you hoping to have achieved by 2020? What does it really mean for the lives of individual children and families?

The start of 2016 marks the beginning of a new, hugely significant chapter in Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance's history – it will also arguably be our most challenging period. Thanks to our donors’ mobilisation and Germany’s leadership, while we will continue to support countries to introduce new life-saving vaccines, our focus is expanding to reach every child everywhere with these vaccines. Today 19 million children in the world remain deprived of the most basic DTP3 vaccine – a situation that must change. With more than 20 countries scheduled to transition out of our financial support by 2020, ensuring that domestic financing in in place to support strong immunisation systems will be crucial.

Our objective is now to deliver on our promise made at the replenishment conference one year ago in Berlin that we will support the world’s poorest countries to immunise an additional 300 million children, leading to 5 to 6 million premature deaths being averted and economic benefits of between US$ 80 and US$ 100 billion for developing countries through productivity gains and savings in treatment, transportation costs and caretaker wages.


However there are reasons for concern. We see that the global community is ill-prepared to address future pandemics. The countries Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance works with are the most vulnerable, and are where outbreaks are likely to originate from.

The Ebola outbreak revealed big gaps in the ability to respond to outbreaks, both globally and at country level. Immunisation has a crucial role to play in addressing this, and has been identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Government as one of 11 action packages that are key to strengthening global health security. Gavi is already engaging in outbreak response by funding vaccine stockpiles for yellow fever, cholera, meningitis and potentially Ebola once prequalified, as well as measles outbreak response. Our support to health system strengthening is also contributing to improving health security.

How do vaccines contribute to ending extreme poverty and achieving the Global Goals?

We know that vaccines have contributed substantially to the reduction of burden from communicable diseases and associated mortality. In developed countries, routine vaccination has led to complete eradication or control of several infectious diseases. Vaccines are one of public health's "best buys” as they are relatively easy to deliver and, in most cases, provide lifelong protection. In return, they boost development through direct medical savings by averting illnesses and indirect economic benefits such as cognitive development, educational attainment, labour productivity, higher income, savings and investment. In 2005, Harvard University scientists calculated that spending on Gavi's programme to expand vaccine coverage in eligible countries would deliver a rate of return of 18% by 2020 - higher than most other health interventions, and similar to primary education.

What can Global Citizens do to support Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and child health? Is there anything you want to tell Global Citizens?

We are truly grateful to all Global Citizens for their passionate support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance's vision and mission. Together we can make a difference for the poorest children in the world and to do this we must ensure that this issue remains high up the international agenda.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.