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February 1, 2010

Gates Supports Vaccines Again

Funding: Major grant will advance vaccine research and distribution in poor countries

Ann Thayer

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $10 billion over 10 years to support vaccine R&D and the delivery of new vaccines—for such diseases as malaria, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis--to the world's poorest countries. This latest round of funding comes on top of $4.5 billion that the foundation has already given to this cause.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," Microsoft founder Bill Gates said at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."

In announcing the funding, Melinda Gates pointed to recent vaccine advances, including record rates of vaccinations in the developing world and dramatic decreases in deaths from preventable diseases, such as measles. She also noted advances in vaccine development, with more candidates reaching late-stage clinical trials and new vaccines for severe diarrhea and pneumonia becoming available.

Vaccines are the Gates Foundation's top priority, but the organization has not yet specified how and where the latest funds are to be distributed. Significant amounts are expected to go to existing foundation partners, including the GAVI Alliance, which distributes vaccines, and PATH, an organization that coordinates public and private vaccine development efforts.

"Investments in global immunization have yielded an extraordinary return," GAVI CEO Julian Lob-Levyt said at the meeting. Launched 10 years ago at the World Economic Forum, GAVI has already prevented an estimated 5 million deaths by increasing access to vaccines in the world's poorest countries, he reported.

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan also welcomed the pledge. "Building on these achievements, we can take immunization to the next level, with the expanded uptake of new vaccines against major killers such as pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhea," she said. "An additional two million deaths in children under five years could be prevented by 2015 through widespread use of new vaccines and a 10% increase in global vaccination coverage."

Saying that the foundation's money alone is not enough, Bill and Melinda Gates called on governments and the private sector to increase their investments in R&D and immunization programs to help developing countries dramatically reduce child mortality by the end of the decade.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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