The UK has announced that it will help fund the immunisation of 75 million children around the world, to ensure they get access to the life-saving vaccines they need.
The funding, from the UK’s aid budget, will go to support Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is an international alliance working to protect children all around the world against deadly yet preventable diseases.
The announcement on Wednesday reflects the international community’s growing emphasis on vaccines as being the best way to prevent health crises like COVID-19 from happening again.
It comes after Global Citizens took over 344,000 actions to call on world leaders to protect the health of the most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, there’s a pressing need to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. While we don’t yet know who will discover the most effective vaccine, or where it will be made, we do know that all of us deserve a fair shot at getting it — and Gavi will be front-and-centre in ensuring the vaccine reaches the most vulnerable, one of the many reasons it’s so important to ensure Gavi is properly funded.
“The coronavirus pandemic shows us now more than ever the vital role vaccines play in protecting us all,” said Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK’s international development secretary, in a statement. “By supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, we are helping stop the spread of infectious diseases, saving millions of lives.”
“As coronavirus vaccine trials begin, we need to make sure any successful vaccine will be available to everyone,” she continued. “Gavi will be integral to achieving this, so we can protect the UK and the NHS from future waves of infection.”
The funding is equivalent to £330 million a year over the next five years, to support Gavi’s vital work in driving routine immunisation and strengthening global health systems.
According to Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “when the world beats the COVID-19 pandemic and life returns to normal, Gavi — and the UK’s support of it — will be a major reason why.”
He further highlighted that Gavi “has spent the last 20 years delivering vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.”
“They’ve been incredibly effective and, with this new funding, they’ll be able to continue their work when a COVID vaccine is ready,” he continued. “Today, the UK is being generous and thinking global, which also happens to be the best way to fight disease.”
Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people still die every year from preventable diseases, like measles, polio, and typhoid.
But by vaccinating millions of children against deadly diseases that are preventable, health systems globally are supported — meaning they're better able to cope with rising COVID-19 cases.
Health experts have warned that if COVID-19 is left to spread in developing countries, it could well re-emerge in the UK later in the year, putting further pressure on the NHS.
It means that, in order to protect everyone, both in the UK and globally, it’s essential for countries to work together to tackle diseases — no country can solve a health crisis by itself.
Since Gavi formed in 2000, the UK has been a committed supporter — in fact, the UK has been Gavi’s biggest donor since its inception.
And it’s thanks to international donors, such as the UK and 25 other countries — including Norway, Italy, and the US — that Gavi has been able to immunise over 760 million children, and save more than 13 million lives.
But, as highlighted by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the Gavi board, Gavi’s work “has never been more important.”
“Right now it is playing a vital role, both keeping immunisation programmes going across the world, reducing the chances of there being further global disease outbreaks, as well as helping developing countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, added: “This funding will not only protect hundreds of millions of children against disease, it will also help health systems to repair and rebuild after the enormous impact of COVID-19 has subsided.”
“This is our best shield against future pandemics which, as we have seen all too clearly in recent months, do not respect borders,” he continued. “Finally, it means we can continue our work leading international efforts to ensure universal access to a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to maintain the infrastructure needed to deploy it at scale around the world, which offers our best means of ending this crisis.”
The UK will also be co-hosting a Coronavirus Global Response Summit on May 4, aiming to raise £7 billion to develop vaccines, treatments, and tests to help end the coronavirus pandemic; and will further host a major Global Vaccines Summit virtually on June 4, to help ensure that Gavi is fully funded to ensure equal access globally for any vaccine.