The virtual Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK government has raised $8.8 billion to immunise 300 million children against diseases such as measles, polio and diphtheria by the end of 2025 and support the fight against COVID-19.
Hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Thursday, the pledges made by 32 governments and 12 foundations, corporations and organisations outstripped the US$7.4 billion that the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) had targeted.
Another US$567 million was raised at the launch of the Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (Covax AMC), a new fund to provide access to coronavirus vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
AstraZeneca became the first vaccine manufacturer to sign up to Covax AMC under which the pharmaceutical company will guarantee 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing in collaboration with the University of Oxford once it has been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Representatives of 52 countries, including 35 heads of state, joined leaders from global health organisations, the private sector, vaccine manufacturers and civil society organisations to support GAVI’S work.
The UK remains the Alliance’s largest donor, pledging the equivalent of £330 million per year over the next five years.
Mr Johnson said: “Together we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetime – the triumph of humanity over disease, now and for the generations that follow.”
Eight countries made their first ever pledge to Gavi, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Uganda.
The President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré noted: “COVID-19 is a brutal reminder of why we must prioritise health.
“But if we fail to maintain the achievements we have made in vaccination, we risk the resurgence of deadly diseases like measles, yellow fever and polio.
“By working together to ensure the survival and prosperity of the people of Burkina Faso, of Africa and of the world, we will together write the most magnificent pages in our common history,” he added.
GAVI, the WHO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have warned that 80 million children under the age of one are at risk of disease due to disruptions to vital immunisation programmes because of COVID-19.
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The new funding will also be used to help lower-income countries to strengthen their health systems and vaccine distribution in the midst of coronavirus.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, GAVI Board Chair, praised the many health workers and administrators who “work tirelessly every day to ensure children in vulnerable countries continue to receive lifesaving vaccines”.
“We have made incredible progress over the past two decades improving vaccine coverage and reducing child mortality across Africa and Asia.
“This funding will give countries new hope that, despite the devastating impact of COVID-19, this progress can be sustained and built on.
“The Alliance will now get to work making this happen,” she said.
In welcoming the pledges, the Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “Thanks to vaccines, hundreds of millions of deaths have been prevented. “Polio has been pushed to the brink of eradication, and just in the past few years new vaccines have become available for Ebola and malaria.
“But vaccines only realise their true power when they are deployed to protect the poorest and most vulnerable.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is unravelling many of the gains we have made, with vaccination campaigns for polio, cholera, measles, diphtheria, and meningitis,” he added.
There were pledges, too, from African businesses.
Airtel Nigeria, a mobile telecommunications company, will provide US$5.9 million to digitise a paper-based vaccine reporting system and provide digital tools to primary health care workers across Nigeria for the accurate collection of essential data.
United Bank of Africa Foundation will raise US$1.5 million in funding for immunisation and health system strengthening programmes across Africa, starting with Nigeria.
GAVI is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the globe’s deadliest diseases.
Since its inception in 2000, it has helped to immunise over 760 million children and prevented more than 13 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries.