Immunization has long been recognized as one of the most efficient, successful, and cost-effective health investments in human history. Studies prove that immunized children have higher cognitive abilities, are more likely to attend school, and are more likely to go on to be productive, healthy adults than their un-immunized counterparts. Unfortunately, even with this compelling evidence, 23 million children, mainly in the developing world, are still not vaccinated against life-threatening, common, preventable diseases. Due to the lack of access to some of the most basic vaccines in these poor and remote communities, precious lives are unnecessarily taken. Every child born, no matter the location of his or her birth, has the right to have the opportunity to live a healthy life, and GAVI Alliance avers that vaccines are the best way to assure this basic human right to life.
In the year 2000, global immunization rates were stagnating, and nearly 30 million children were born every year in developing countries without full access to routine immunizations. In order increase access to life-saving and health preserving vaccines, a unique public-private partnership was created with the help of numerous skilled immunization specialists; the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) was born. The Alliance’s mission was (and continues to be) to save children’s lives and protect global health by increasing access to immunization in the world’s poorest countries. GAVI has brought together low-income countries, donor governments, the WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other private philanthropists and influential individuals into one decision-making body. Working together, these Alliance members have been able to achieve goals no single organization could realize on its own and have made significant strides in closing the gap between children for whom immunization is a given and the millions of children worldwide with no access to basic vaccines. Each partner has brought something different and critically important to the effort to immunize children in the poorest countries, and, together, they have been able to make a huge difference in the world today.
Since GAVI was founded, the partnership has significantly increased immunization coverage and improved the health systems in over 70 countries. By focusing on funding immunization programs in low-income countries and supporting the strengthening of national health systems, GAVI has been able to ensure vaccines for meningitis, maternal neonatal tetanus, yellow fever, measles and other diseases reach individuals in need. The way GAVI works is quite unique, and the Alliance focuses on building on country commitment. Countries that are eligible for GAVI support take the lead by determining what their immunization needs are, applying for funding, and overseeing the implementation of their vaccination programs. GAVI requires that recipient countries contribute towards the cost of the vaccines with GAVI’s co-financing policy. By doing this, ownership of the program is strengthened and long-term sustainability of immunization programs is created. Involvement of recipient country governments and organizations in the vaccine programs demonstrates a strong commitment to improving the health of their populations.
Currently, GAVI is finishing up a second five-year strategy to support its mission and assist developing countries to immunize an additional quarter of a billion children by 2015, potentially saving four million more lives. This strategy, which began in 2011, has four main goals, all of which support GAVI’s overall mission: accelerate the uptake and use of underused and new vaccines, contribute to strengthening the capacity of integrated health systems to deliver immunization, increase the predictability of global financing while improving the sustainability of national financing for immunization, and to shape vaccine markets. This strategy also includes a series of programmatic targets and a range of indicators to monitor the progress towards fulfilling GAVI’s mission.
Since GAVI was founded, over 440 million children had been vaccinated due to the Alliance’s work, saving over 6 million lives. With the help of direct contributions, public-private partnerships, and caring individual donations, GAVI is able to continue with its commitment to save and protect millions more lives around the world. As new opportunities arise to prevent additional diseases, GAVI plans to continue making additional vaccines available and hopes to prevent more than 11 million child deaths by 2030.