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GAVI Alliance set to save four million lives by 2015 / US$ 3.7 billion needed to vaccinate 240 million children

By GAVI Alliance
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More than 240 million additional children will be immunised in the next five years saving four million lives, but only if the GAVI Alliance receives the funds required to accelerate the introduction of new and under-used vaccines in the developing world.

If fully funded, GAVI will be in a position to vaccinate 90 million children with pneumococcal vaccine and 53 million children with rotavirus vaccine. These two vaccines help protect against pneumonia and diarrhoea, the world's two biggest killers of children.

Meeting in Kigali, the GAVI Alliance Board today approved a five-year business plan from 2011-2015 setting ambitious but achievable targets expected to cost US$ 6.8 billion.

But while some donors have made advance commitments ahead of a June 2011 pledging conference and US$ 3.1 billion is already assured, GAVI must find another US$ 3.7 billion to save another four million lives.

Representatives from Norway and Sweden announced new commitments to GAVI totalling $55 million. The United Kingdom offered to co-host the pledging conference in London next June and France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offered to work with the UK to mobilise support for the conference.

Concluding her last GAVI board meeting as Chair, Mary Robinson said: “GAVI offers donors an unbeatable deal in terms of value for money and an opportunity to invest in saving the lives of millions of children – children who will grow up free of disease, attend school and become healthy productive adults.”

The former Irish President and human rights leader will hand over to Dagfinn Høybråten, GAVI's Chair-elect at the end of the year.

“For 10 years GAVI has had such solid support from many donors who recognise that this is an innovative and results-driven public-private partnership and that immunisation is a very transparent intervention because it's easily measured,” said Mr Høybråten, a Norwegian member of parliament and former health minister.

“As the proud father of four and grandfather of two, I'm determined that children in the world's poorest countries will benefit from the same basic vaccines as my own family,”he said. “Those children have a right to health and I will not rest until we have reached them with the power of immunisation.”

In its first decade, the GAVI Alliance's support resulted in the immunisation of some 288 million children in the world's poorest countries, preventing more than five million future deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

With full funding, GAVI's support for vaccines will prevent an additional 3.9 million future deaths in just five years, a critical contribution to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially MDG 4 which aims to reduce under-five child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

GAVI's work on immunisation sits at the centre of both the Muskoka Initiative and the UN Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women and Children's Health.

An evaluation in September by independent and external consultants of GAVI's work confirms the alliance's value and business model, finding that the alliance has accelerated the introduction of vaccines and attracted additional funding to immunisation.

“Our board meeting in Rwanda gave us the opportunity to see first-hand this country's impressive progress in vaccination and health, and celebrate GAVI's contribution to it,” said Helen Evans, GAVI's interim CEO. “The meeting provides us with great momentum as we implement our new strategy and raise funds to save a further four million lives.”

With competition between an increasing number of manufacturers since the launch of GAVI in 2000, the price of hepatitis B vaccine has declined by 64 % from US$ 0.59 per dose to US$ 0.20, for example.

“GAVI's second evaluation highlighted areas where we can improve efficiencies even further and our new five-year strategy reflects this,” Evans said, referring to GAVI's increased efforts to bring vaccine prices down further and boost the financial sustainability of its country programmes through co-financing by recipient countries.

“The GAVI Alliance has been an enormous support to our mother and child health programmes, and our successes in Rwanda show exactly what can be achieved,” said Dr Richard Sezibera, Rwanda's Minister of Health, who represents developing countries on the GAVI board.

Rwanda's under-five mortality rate has dropped to 103 child deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 from 152 deaths in 2005, linked to a range of interventions including immunisation. Routine immunisation of infants in Rwanda includes vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis, measles and pneumococcal disease. The country hopes to introduce rotavirus in 2012 and HPV vaccines next year.

With full funding, GAVI also plans to accelerate the introduction of routine meningitis vaccination and to support campaigns against yellow fever and meningitis.

GAVI's five-year strategy to 2015 also envisages activities to prepare for new and underused vaccines against meningitis A, Japanese encephalitis, rubella, typhoid, and HPV.

Besides being one of the most cost-effective development interventions, immunisation saves families an enormous amount of time and money that might otherwise be lost on medical treatment and care of sick children.