Prime Minister of India calls on world leaders to embrace vaccines as key to saving children's lives

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Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh opens the 3rd Partner's Meeting of the GAVI Alliance

NEW DELHI,7 December 2005 - Speaking with passion about the dramatic potential of vaccines to prevent the deaths of millions of the world's poorest children, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh opened the 3rd Partners' Meeting of the GAVI Alliance (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) in New Delhi.

"Vaccines are a cornerstone of our efforts in India to build a better future for our children. They are vital as well in fulfilling the promise we made as world leaders in signing on to the UN Millennium Development Goals, in particular the commitment to reduce child mortality worldwide," the Prime Minister told an audience of 400 public health leaders, policymakers, and vaccine researchers and manufacturers at the opening ceremony. "This event represents an opportunity to talk about the progress made in reaching the 27 million children a year who still miss out on basic vaccines that are part of routine care in wealthier nations, as well as a chance to tell the world that there is hope for addressing other killer diseases with new vaccines that are now in the pipeline."

Joined by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Prime Minister Singh called on world leaders to continue to support the work of the GAVI Alliance, a global health public-private partnership focused on increasing access to vaccines among children in the poorest countries of the world. GAVI partners include national governments, UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine industry, public health institutions, and NGOs.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg also announced a dramatic increase in support from the Norwegian government for GAVI from 300 to 500 million Norwegian kroner or US$75 million annually through 2015. Norway will also support the IFFIm at the same level as Sweden.

"I am pleased to announce today that we have the ambition of taking a leading role in making the Millennium Development Goal number four a reality. It says that child mortality should be reduced by two-thirds by the year 2015. I want this to be achieved," said Prime Minister Stoltenberg. "It is unnecessary and unacceptable that a child dies every three seconds, that more than 26,000 children die every day, that more than 10 million children die every year. One third of these children can be saved by vaccines available today or in the very near future. This is why we invest in children's health through the GAVI Alliance."

"It's clear that vaccines are a critical investment in human life and potential. The power of vaccines reaches far beyond individual lives -- with healthier children, families can be more productive, economies can grow, and countries can develop," said Melinda Gates. "The GAVI Alliance has reinvigorated the world's commitment to immunization, and we are proud to support it."

The GAVI Partners' Meeting in New Delhi brings together the world's foremost experts in public health and vaccines, as well as policymakers and other world leaders in global health from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Workshops and plenaries at the meeting will focus on progress and challenges in immunizing the world's poorest children and in developing and financing new vaccines for diseases such as pneumococcal disease, Japanese encephalitis, and against rotavirus which causes potentially deadly diarrheal disease.

The following are among the topics that will be addressed:

  • What strategies are being considered to cover the long-term cost of financing vaccine coverage for children in poor countries, particularly in light of the promising new vaccines now in the pipeline?
  • What is needed to strengthen healthcare and delivery systems?
  • What progress has been made in the search for new vaccine candidates for deadly diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, pneumococcal disease, and diseases caused by the rotavirus?
  • What new tools and technologies are improving immunization rates among children who are the poorest and hardest to reach?
  • What progress has been made in ensuring injection safety, and what challenges remain?

Created with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 11 donor nations, GAVI has proven to be a great investment, Stoltenberg said. He pointed to a recent Harvard University study in which the authors suggested that vaccines not only save individual lives but can also increase economic prosperity in countries with higher coverage rates.

"Good health leads to higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and heightened job satisfaction," Stoltenberg said. "People with good health also live longer and are more interested in developing their skills and educating themselves and their children. And, improved health shows up in a lower mortality rate; this leads to a lower birth rate and better control over population trends -- both of which are critical to fighting poverty."

GAVI and its partners, among them UNICEF and the World Health Organization, have helped some of the world's poorest nations increase their use of basic vaccines and introduce life-saving vaccines that had not been used widely before in these countries. Over the next ten years, the innovative new funding mechanism known as the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) will use the capital markets to raise funds to expand GAVI programs. The pledges of support for IFFIm, from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden, will provide US$4 billion to support and scale up GAVI's work.

"GAVI and its global health partners WHO and UNICEF give credit to the leadership and commitment of the donors to GAVI," noted Stoltenberg. "But we cannot understate the importance of the role that the Alliance and its partners have played in going beyond the job at hand to create a vision and a global strategy for the future, tracking the needs and bringing in the governments of target countries to design their own plans for how to get things done. Whether the work is going on in the field, in the laboratory, or in the halls of government, we are here to report that we are making progress against the diseases that have caused so much death and heartache in the world's poorest nations."

"The Value of Vaccination," (PDF - 119K) by David E. Bloom, David Canning & Mark Weston, World Economics (NTC Economic & Financial Publishing in association with The Oxford Institute for Economic Policy: Volume 6, Number 3, July-September 2005).

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The GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) was launched in 2000 to increase immunization rates and reverse widening global disparities in access to vaccines. Governments in industrialized and developing countries, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, non-governmental organizations, foundations, vaccine manufacturers, and public health and research institutions work together as partners in the Alliance, to achieve common immunization goals, in the recognition that only through a strong and united effort can much higher levels of support for global immunization be generated. Funds channeled through GAVI's financing arm, The GAVI Fund, are used to help strengthen health and immunization services, accelerate access to selected vaccines and new vaccine technologies - especially vaccines that are new or under-used, and improve injection safety. In addition to substantial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The GAVI Fund (formerly The Vaccine Fund) has been financed by 10 governments to date, as well as the European Union and private contributors.

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