Seth Berkley, M.D., is the CEO of the GAVI Alliance and a global advocate for the power of vaccines. He is an epidemiologist and medical doctor by training. The opinions expressed are his own.
I am in Davos, Switzerland, attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the seventh time, representing GAVI, which was born here in 2000, and which like Davos brings together leaders from many fields, in the case of GAVI to save children’s lives and protect people’s health through immunisation.
The public-private partnership is part of the GAVI Alliance’s formula for success that has helped countries to immunise 325 million children in our first 10 years, saving more than 5.5 million lives. GAVI is about ensuring children in the poorest countries have access to the same vaccines as children in countries like Switzerland or the U.S.
GAVI’s accomplishments are those of its alliance partners: UNICEF, the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, vaccine manufacturers, civil society organisations and governments all over the world.
This year’s WEF theme of “Great transformations: Shaping new models” could easily use the GAVI Alliance as a good example of how to use new models successfully.
In fact, public-private partnerships are part of what brings me to Davos this week.
On Thursday, I attended a breakfast meeting devoted to discussing a ground-breaking initiative called the GAVI Matching Fund.
The British government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation each has agreed to match corporate contributions to the GAVI Alliance. The British government's Department for International Development (DFID) has pledged to match up to 50 million pounds ($79 million) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match up to $50 million in private-sector donations.
They also are matching contributions made to GAVI by employees, customers, members and even business partners of those corporations and foundations.
The goal – including the match – is to raise an additional $260 million for immunisation by the end of 2015.
Vaccines are extremely cost-effective, giving kids a healthy start in life and supporting the economic and educational foundations of entire communities. They directly lead to a healthy workforce which is so critical to long-term development and prosperity for all countries.
For example, a $3 million donation – matched by the UK government or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – buys enough vaccines to immunise more than 500,000 children against pneumococcal disease, one of the main causes of death from pneumonia -- or vaccinate nearly a million children against a potentially deadly form of diarrhoeacaused by rotavirus.
These are among the vaccines being purchased under the GAVI Matching Fund through contributions made by, for instance, two of its partners: the “la Caixa” Foundation and Absolute Return for Kids (ARK).
The WEF calls on leaders like these to help set an inspiring vision to improve the world for future generations, to demonstrate personal courage that could reshape the global economy. It is the kind of foresight shown by the UK government in expanding its commitment to global development even during challenging economic times.
Andrew Mitchell, UK Secretary of State for DFID, was at the GAVI Matching Fund breakfast meeting with me, along with a couple of dozen CEOs and board members from major global corporations, such as Anglo American and J.P. Morgan, each of which is a member of the GAVI Matching Fund.
By bringing new partners into the GAVI family we can not only diversify our funding base but also deploy their skills to help drive our mission.
The GAVI Matching Fund is only a few months old but it already has raised tens of millions of dollars for children’s immunisation.
That is the kind of public-private partnership that works and represents a rare chance to be part of something that will change the lives of millions of people for the better.