Embargoed until 15:15 local time
(ECT), 14:15 (GMT) 31 January 2000
Lisa Jacobs, GAVI Secretariat
CHILDRENS IMMUNIZATION CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM
Gates Foundation money to
spur fight against preventable diseases
Davos/New York, 31 January - A global alliance
of business leaders, philanthropic foundations, development banks,
UN agencies and national governments today urged the worlds economic
powerbrokers to view children as the key to sustainable human development,
and said that millions of young lives could be saved each year through
an ambitious new campaign to immunize all the worlds children.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization,
known as GAVI, officially launched the vaccination campaign today
at the World Economic Forum. Calling the campaign "The Childrens
Challenge", the members of GAVI argued that children have a right
to good health and that protecting the worlds children against
preventable diseases was not only a moral imperative, but an essential
cornerstone of a healthy, stable world society.
"Businesses, governments and philanthropists
should work together to provide the life-saving vaccines that we
take for granted to children around the world," Bill Gates,
co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said.
"Every child deserves access to these vaccines, and millions
of lives can be saved. We can, and we should, do this together."
Late last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
paved the way for the launch of the Childrens Challenge by
donating US$750 million over five years to establish the Vaccine
Fund for Childrens Vaccines. The Vaccine Fund is one of the
financial tools GAVI will use to save childrens lives through
improved immunization. GAVI is seeking additional large donations
from the public and private sector. U.S. Vice President Al Gore
recently announced plans to ask Congress for US$50 million to support
the objectives of the Childrens Challenge.
"Nearly three million children worldwide still
die needlessly each year of vaccine-preventable illnesses," said
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health
Organization (WHO) and the chair of GAVI. "For only US $17 per child,
we can provide lifetime protection against the six historical scourges
- polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis, pertussis, measles and tetanus.
And for not much more, we can extend the protection to include hepatitis
B, yellow fever and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib),
the leading cause of pneumonia and meningitis."
In launching the Childrens Challenge, the GAVI
partners outlined three main inequities that need to be addressed
in order to achieve the goal of universal immunization:
- the 30 million children born every year in
poor countries who are still not receiving the basic six
- the growing disparity in the number of vaccines
available to children in industrialized and developing countries;
- the lack of investment in vaccine research
and development for diseases that are prevalent in poorer countries,
particularly HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
"Extending the right to protection against
preventable disease to all children, poor and rich, is not only
a fundamental human right, it also makes good business sense,"
said James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank Group. "Ill
health is one of the primary causes for an individual or familys
slide into poverty. If globalization is going to work, it must work
for all the worlds children. That is the underlying meaning
of the Childrens Challenge. It is imperative to ensure that
all societies can enjoy the good health necessary for full participation
in the global economy."
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy added
that, "The success of the Childrens Challenge depends on a
firm commitment by leaders of the private and public sectors to
support the right of every child to the fullest protection against
preventable disease that medical science can provide. The same resolve
that markets products in poor rural villages, and sends television
programming into the most remote corners of the world, can surely
overcome all the usually cited barriers to universal immunization."
Other leaders also emphasized the numerous positive
consequences of the GAVI initiative.
In comments at the launch, Joaquim Chissano,
President of Mozambique, said: "In the developing world, funds are
scarce and priorities difficult to assign. However, it is clear
that immunization of our children is a critical precondition to
ending poverty and establishing a healthy and productive population."
Business leaders from the vaccine/pharmaceutical
industry promised to accelerate the delivery of available but underutilized
vaccines for yellow fever, hepatitis B and Hib. These diseases claim
over a million lives each year in the developing world and improving
access to effective vaccines is a major goal of GAVI.
Jean-Jacques Bertrand, a member of the GAVI
Executive Board, underlined his industrys commitment to do its
part. "As global corporations, employers, and suppliers of vaccine,
the pharmaceutical industry as represented by the International
Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA)
has taken a far-sighted role in support of the Childrens Challenge,"
he said. "Individual companies that are participating in the GAVI
efforts have pledged to continue to provide vaccines of the highest
quality and to actively develop new breakthrough vaccines."
Hope was also expressed that the Childrens
Challenge campaign would result in accelerated development of vaccines
for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
Canadas Minister for International Cooperation,
Maria Minna, will represent Canada on the GAVI Board. Minister Minna
welcomed the new initiative as a major contribution to improving
the lives of children around the world. "There is no better
way to ensure the success of a developing country than to invest
in their children. This is one of my top priorities at the Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA) and I intend to commit my
energy and resources to ensure the worlds children receive
the protection they deserve."
Other governments also indicated their support
for GAVI. "The Dutch government is very interested in becoming
involved with the Childrens Challenge by providing support
to GAVI," said GAVI Board Member Dr. Els Borst-Eilers, Minister
of Health and Vice Prime Minister of the Netherlands. "Not
only does vaccination have a clear connection to poverty reduction,
but increased immunization rates in one country also reduce the
spread of disease to any country in the global village, and GAVI
is an exciting new strategy for achieving this progress."
In summing up the achievements of Davos 2000,
Klaus Schwab, President of the World Economic Forum, expressed particular
satisfaction that GAVI and the Childrens Challenge were introduced
to world business leaders at this years event. "Business
leadership in the new millennium requires a vision that is more
acute and far-reaching than in the past," he said. "I
am confident that all participants attending this years event
will do all they can to help realise the great promise of the Childrens
GAVI was formed in 1999 to coordinate a global
network of international development organizations, national governments,
multilateral development banks, philanthropic organizations, private
sector leaders and others in re-energizing the worlds commitment
to vaccines and immunization. GAVI sees immunization as a fundamental
cornerstone of global health, a key component of economic development,
and an essential first step in enabling each child to reach his
or her fullest physical and intellectual potential.
The GAVI secretariat is housed in the UNICEF
Offices for Europe in Geneva, Switzerland, with ongoing coordination
and communication responsibilities. The Executive Secretary is Dr.
Tore Godal, a public health physician who has many years of experience
with the World Health Organization.
GAVI Secretariat, c/o UNICEF, Palais
des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: 41 22 909 5019 Fax: 41 22 909 5931 Email: Gavi@unicef.org