Vaccines have been saving lives for centuries. But from the time Edward Jenner created the first vaccine in the late 1700s, not everyone has had equal access to them. As a result, children in some parts of the world continued to die from diseases that were preventable in other parts.
When Melinda and I learned about this inequity over twenty years ago, we thought it was infuriating—and deeply unfair. So, in 2000, our foundation teamed up with countries whose children were impacted the most, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF, vaccine manufactures, and donors to do something about it. Together, we created an organization called Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Gavi works with governments to make sure that every child has access to the lifesaving vaccines they need. The organization makes this happen by negotiating vaccines at prices that are affordable for the poorest countries. Since Gavi guarantees high volumes, manufacturers are able to lower the cost of vaccines quite dramatically. Gavi also helps low-income countries strengthen systems to deliver vaccines to all communities.
Over the last two decades, Gavi has helped vaccinate more than 760 million children and prevented more than 13 million deaths. That’s a truly amazing result.
Governments and partners from around the world are meeting virtually today to raise funds for Gavi’s next five years of work. This investment is more important than ever before, because Gavi is going to play a key role in making sure that, when we have COVID-19 vaccines, they reach the most vulnerable people. Their expertise and experience in distributing vaccines will be invaluable as we work to end this outbreak once and for all.