Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has called on government leaders and the pharmaceutical industry to save ten million lives by investing in immunisation.
In a keynote address at the 64th World Health Assembly, Gates announced that from 2012, the foundation would honour an individual or organisation that has made a uniquely innovative contribution to its ‘Decade of Vaccines’.
Speaking at the assembly, Gates declared that, “Vaccines are inexpensive, they are easy to deliver, and they are proven to protect children from disease.”
“We can save four million lives by 2015, and 10 million lives by 2020,” Gates said.
Specifically, the foundation has called on leaders to increase their investment in vaccines and immunisation and on pharmaceutical companies to make sure vaccines are affordable for poor countries.
In particular, all 193 member states should make vaccines a central focus of their health systems and pledge to meet vaccine coverage targets of 90% at the country level with no district below 80%.
Special praise was given to efforts by leaders in India and Nigeria, who are responsible for increasing immunisation rates in their states, as well as for a new Meningitis A vaccine rolled out in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger last December.