Leaders from many fields are gathering in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. I’m representing GAVI, which was born in Davos in 2000, and which like Davos brings together leaders from many fields, in this case to save children’s lives and protect people’s health through immunization.
Public-private partnerships are part of the GAVI Alliance’s formula, which has helped countries to immunise 325 million children in our first 10 years, saving more than 5.5 million lives. GAVI is about ensuring children in the poorest countries have access to the same vaccines as children in countries like Switzerland or the US. GAVI’s accomplishments are those of its alliance partners: UNICEF, the World Bank, WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, vaccine manufacturers, civil society organisations and governments all over the world.
This week at Davos, I attended a breakfast meeting devoted to discussing a new initiative called the GAVI Matching Fund. Under the initiative, the British government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation each has agreed to match corporate contributions to the GAVI Alliance.
They are also matching contributions made to GAVI by employees, customers, members and even business partners of those corporations and foundations. The goal – including the match – is to raise an additional US$ 260 million for immunization by the end of 2015.
Vaccines are extremely cost-effective, giving kids a healthy start in life and supporting the economic and educational foundations of entire communities. They directly lead to a healthy workforce, which is so critical to long-term development and prosperity in all countries.
A US$ 3 million donation – matched by the UK government or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – buys enough vaccines to immunise more than 500,000 children against pneumococcal disease, one of the main causes of death from pneumonia. Or vaccinate nearly a million children against a potentially deadly form of diarrhoea caused by rotavirus.
These are among the vaccines being purchased under the GAVI Matching Fund through contributions made by, for instance, two of its partners: the “la Caixa” Foundation and Absolute Return for Kids (ARK).
Leaders like these can help set an inspiring vision to improve the world for future generations, to demonstrate personal courage that could reshape the global economy. It is the kind of foresight shown by the UK government in expanding its commitment to global development even during challenging economic times.
The GAVI Matching Fund is only a few months old but it already has raised tens of millions of dollars for children’s immunisation. That is the kind of public-private partnership that works and represents a rare chance to be part of something that will change the lives of millions of people for the better.
Seth Berkley, M.D., is the CEO of the GAVI Alliance and a global advocate for the power of vaccines. He is an epidemiologist and medical doctor by training.
Pictured: A health worker prepares a vaccine against measles at the Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico City July 22, 2011. Health officials started a vaccination campaign against measles after detecting the first case of the disease in four years, local media reported. An 18-months-old baby, who arrived on July 10 from France, showed symptoms of the disease and the neighbourhood where she lives in is under watch. REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya