US$10 Billion Pledge for Vaccine Research, Development, and Delivery

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a US$10 billion commitment over 10 years to fund research, development, and distribution of vaccines to people in the world’s poorest countries. “We must make this the decade of vaccines,” said Bill Gates, after he announced the substantial donation during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which took place January 26-31.

The $10 billion pledge is in addition to the $4.5 billion already committed by the Gates Foundation for vaccines. The Foundation said its increase in vaccine funding was inspired by the remarkable progress in recent years in improving access to existing vaccines and the introduction of new vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease. The World Health Organization estimates that together pneumonia and rotavirus infection account for 1.3 million deaths every year in children under age five, mostly in developing countries.

The Gates Foundation also estimates that an additional 1.1 million children could be saved with the rapid introduction of a malaria vaccine beginning in 2014. A Phase III efficacy trial of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals’ RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate began last year. Depending on the results of this trial, the candidate vaccine could be submitted to the European Medicines Agency for regulatory review by 2011 and be ready for distribution by 2012, according to GSK and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

Julian Lob-Levyt, executive secretary of the GAVI Alliance, a Geneva-based non-profit organization that partners with drug companies, health agencies, and charities to provide both financial and programmatic support for vaccination programs in 73 of the poorest countries in the world, noted that the Foundation’s $10 billion pledge set a new precedent in global health. “Vaccines remain the most cost-effective way of saving children’s lives,” he says. —Regina McEnery