Global vaccine and immunization scale up: A challenge to keep the momentum

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(From left) Lisa Carty of CSIS, Joelle Tanguy of GAVI, Amie Batson of USAID, Claire Moran of the British Embassy, Dr. Nicole K. Bates of the Gates Foundation, and Amanda Glassman of the Center for Global Development

At the inaugural pledging conference of The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) on June 13, a record $4.3 billion in donations was secured from private and public donors, including a $450 million multi-year pledge from the United States. Now that the international community has shown GAVI the money, securing the resources to potentially surpass the goal of immunizing an additional 250 million children by 2015, next steps to show results and keep the movement’s momentum are key. In that vein, the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a panel discussion Monday exploring GAVI going forward with representatives from key global entities.

The current momentum behind GAVI is unquestionable, said event moderator Lisa Carty from CSIS, seldom does an organization set a pledge goal and comes away with $600 million more than they requested.  But the panelists were sure to point out that this momentum was garnered through targeted advocacy from a broad base of supporters, and sustaining this momentum will be challenging but essential.

“There are not many opportunities for investment with a proven track record of achievement like this,” said panelist Amie Batson, deputy assistant administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development. According to the latest GAVI progress report, by the end of 2010, more than 5 million future deaths had been prevented and more than 288 million additional children had been immunized around the world with support from GAVI and its partners.

Despite this track record, the panelists agreed that many challenges remain moving forward, including continuing to engender broad-based support from various economies around the world, expeditiously demonstrating the impact that the increased funding has had, and delivering on the promises made to vaccinate and immunize hundreds of millions of children.

In response to a question from the audience regarding the importance of multi-year pledges, Batson said they are crucial because year-to-year funding volatility hurts recipient countries and their ability to sustain vaccination efforts and plan ahead.  The U.S. has offered to host a high-level meeting in one year’s time to discuss continued funding.

 “Countries more than doubled their contributions from the previous three years,” said panelist Joelle Tanguy, managing director of External Relations at GAVI, adding that emerging economies like Brazil, which made its first contribution, demonstrate the broad-based support that could be engendered worldwide. Thanks to effective lobbying from GAVI advocates, this round of donors also included other newcomers like Japan and Korea, with signs from China that they will soon be jumping on board.

However, Tanguy said, the need to deliver and demonstrate very soon the real impact of the increased funding they have accrued is the real challenge. Part of that will be making sure that vaccines remain a best buy in global health, and an “affordable intervention that countries are interested in,” she said. Addressing hurdles to market entry for vaccine manufacturers on an individual basis will be key to that effort.

Before the pledging conference, CSIS and CGD developed a brief entitled “GAVI’s Future: Steps to Build Strategic Leadership, Financial Sustainability and Better Partnerships,” to tout the more than 5 million child deaths that were prevented in the GAVI partnership’s first decade through increased coverage of existing vaccines and their work to quickly introduce novel vaccines in resource-poor countries.

One of the topics that has heralded the most attention is the alliance’s innovative financing mechanisms and successes in negotiating vaccine price reductions. According to Batson, one of the best examples of this is the alliance’s work to reduce the price of the rotavirus vaccine by 67 percent. She added that this work paves the way for the next wave of vaccines, to include those for malaria, TB and one day HIV/AIDS, to effectively reach more people in need.

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