A $1 billion commitment to protect children from disease

Dr. Thomas Frieden (right), director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receives an influenza vaccination. (© AP Images)

At least 5 million lives will be saved by 2020, thanks to vaccinations made possible by the generosity of global donors. Joining the effort, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a planned $1 billion commitment to Gavi, an international organization that unites private and public organizations to help vaccinate children in the world’s poorest countries.

The results of vaccination can be profound. When Tanzania introduced rotavirus vaccine at the Muhimbili National Hospital, for example, once packed children’s diarrheal hospital wards cleared and now sometimes are completely empty.

The U.S. contribution will span 4 years and require congressional approval. It will help Gavi immunize 300 million additional children against a range of deadly diseases and save at least 5 million lives by 2020, the organization says. Providing new and underutilized vaccines to the world’s poorest countries is a key to ending preventable child deaths by 2035, a goal set by many governments and civil society partners in 2012.

“Gavi represents a groundbreaking effort that has unified a global community of partners — from rural clinics to multinational corporations — in the fight to end the tragedy of preventable child death.” — USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah

“In doing so, we are strengthening our own national security, economic prosperity and moral leadership,” Shah added. Over the past two years alone, “simple, low-cost, high-impact health interventions like vaccines” have saved a half-million children under the age of 5 in 24 priority countries, USAID adds.

Since 2000, Gavi has helped immunize nearly 500 million children, saved 7 million lives, driven down the costs of lifesaving vaccinations, and helped the poorest countries expand their vaccination programs.