Gates Foundation Commits $10 Billion to Vaccine-Related Programs

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a ten-year, $10 billion commitment to support the research, development, and delivery of vaccines for the world's poorest countries.

Announced at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the commitment will fund a range of vaccine-related activities, from basic research to innovations in delivery. Using a model developed by a consortium led by the Institute for International Programs at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the foundation projects that scaling up the delivery of life-saving vaccines for the world's children by 10 percent could prevent the deaths of some 7.6 million children under the age of five between 2010 and 2019. If a malaria vaccine is introduced by 2014, that number could reach 8.7 million, with even more lives saved if vaccines for diseases such as tuberculosis are developed and introduced in the coming decade.

Although the commitment is believed to be the largest pledge ever made by a grantmaker to a single cause, the Gates Foundation pointed out that billions more dollars will be needed from other funding sources — foundations, governments, and the private sector — to achieve the ambitious goal of vaccinating 90 percent of the world's children. Critical funding gaps exist in global polio and measles vaccination programs and at the GAVI Alliance, which was created ten years ago at Davos with $750 million from the Gates Foundation. In addition, more support is needed for the research and development necessary to produce new vaccines, the introduction of vaccines for pneumonia, severe diarrhea, and other diseases; and efforts to ensure a steady market for — and an adequate supply of — vaccines in developing countries.

The Gateses said their pledge was inspired by progress made in the area of vaccines in recent years. Global vaccination rates have reached an all-time high, rebounding from years of decline in the 1990s, according to the World Health Organization, while new vaccines for the two leading causes of global child deaths — severe diarrhea and pneumonia — are becoming available. To date, GAVI has reached 257 million children with new and underused vaccines, preventing five million future deaths.

Before this most recent pledge, the Gates Foundation had already committed $4.5 billion to vaccine research, development, and delivery, making vaccines the highest-funded cause at the foundation, the New York Times reports. The foundation will not divert money from other projects to fund the new commitment; instead, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will increase their annual gifts to the foundation, with the share of the foundation's overall spending that goes toward vaccines increasing from 20 percent to 30 percent.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Bill Gates. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."

Donald G. McNeil Jr.. "Gates Foundation to Double Spending on Vaccines." New York Times 01/29/2010. "Bill and Melinda Gates Pledge $10 Billion in Call for Decade of Vaccines." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 01/29/2010.