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News from 2015-01-15 / KfW Development Bank

The objective: Vaccination for every child

Talk with: Seth Berkley, the head of GAVI

Gavi is a global vaccine alliance formed by governments, UN organisations, private foundations, non-governmental organisations, research institutes and vaccine producers. According to its motto “Reach Every Child“ Gavi is committed to achieve the vaccination of an additional 300 million children all over the world between 2016 and 2020. The Gavi replenishment session, which will take place in Berlin on 27th January, will be hosted by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It will be an opportunity for global leaders to announce their contributions to the second replenishment of the Vaccine Alliance 2016-2020. In order to achieve its goal Gavi will require an estimated amount of USD 7.5 billion.

Gavi is a global vaccine alliance. Where do you see the biggest demands for support from Gavi at the moment?

Seth Berkley: I think that 2014 was a truly remarkable year for Gavi’s programmes. Responding to developing country demand we supported a record number of vaccine introductions, one every week on average. We have also been ramping up our efforts to support countries strengthen their health systems.

Would you say the world has recognised the importance of immunisation by now?

Berkley: In the last couple of decades, and with the aid of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there have been tremendous efforts to reduce child mortality, and significant progress was made in expanding the reach of programmes that vaccinate children. These successes highlight what can be accomplished through political commitment and increased investment in interventions for maternal, newborn and child health. However, in developed countries, where diseases are less visible, vaccine hesitancy is at an all-time high.

What about Ebola? Apparently we are close to getting a vaccination ready. Does that influence the work of your organization in any way

Berkley: In December 2014, the Gavi Board endorsed plans to prepare countries for Ebola vaccine roll out and procure vaccines to be used to immunise at risk populations in affected countries. This decision will enable Gavi to be ready to act as soon as a safe, effective vaccine is recommended for use by the World Health Organization.

Gavi exists for more than 15 years now. What have you achieved so far?

Berkley: Since 2000, Gavi has supported the world’s poorest countries to reach half a billion children with vaccines, leading to seven million deaths being averted. Additionally, Gavi has provided almost USD 900 million in health system strengthening (HSS) support to enable countries to improve their immunisation systems. From none in 2000, now all 73 Gavi countries have introduced the pentavalent vaccine which protects against five major child diseases.

What do you want to achieve in the next years? And what are your biggest challenges in getting there?

Berkley: Gavi is scaling-up its current interventions and looking ahead to the next chapter – aspiring to a world free from vaccine-preventable diseases. One in five children worldwide is not fully protected even with the most basic vaccines. If Gavi is able to secure USD 7.5 billion in additional investments between 2016 and 2020 , Gavi-supported countries can immunise a further 300 million children – including many who are currently unreached. That way we could increase the number of children receiving all 11 vaccines recommended for universal use by WHO from 5 % to 50 %. This will result in another 5 to 6 million lives being saved.

The organisational construction of Gavi is quite special. Has it proved to be successful? And could it serve as a model for others?

Berkley: The Gavi model is successful because it brings together all the key immunisation stakeholders. We are able to capitalise on each Alliance member’s strength and ensure that we can achieve more together than any of us could acting alone. We believe there are important lessons to learn from Gavi and we are actively engaged in sharing our experience.

What do you expect from Germany in the next replenishment session that is taking place by the end of January in Berlin and that is being hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Berkley: We are looking forward to a great event and are honored by the Chancellor’s confirmed participation. All German partners have been exceptional in expressing their support for Gavi. Their leadership so far has had a tremendous impact on other donors! Much has been achieved, but there is still more work to do to ensure we reach our goal.

You are cooperating with KfW in the East African Community. How would you characterise this partnership?

Berkley: Since 2006, Germany has contributed multilaterally through Gavi and since 2011 some of Germany’s Gavi funding has been specifically targeted to programmes in member states of the East African Community. This great collaboration has so far contributed to the vaccination of over 14 million children across the five countries. We are extremely grateful for Germany’s continued commitment to Gavi – not least by hosting our replenishment event.

Do you see ways of intensifying this cooperation? How?

Berkley: While a lot has been achieved through the KfW and Gavi collaboration, much more can be achieved. In November 2014, Development Minister Gerd Müller, at an event with Bill Gates, shared Germany’s plan to increase its contribution to Gavi.

What would it need to immunise every child in the developing world? And how long would it take to get there?

Berkley: Although immunisation reaches more children than any other single intervention, sadly we still see 1.5 million children dying every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. I believe that together we can reach every child. This will be a major contribution to reaching the global community goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

The interview was held by Friederike Bauer

Ein Mann lächelt in die Kamera
Seth Berkley, the head of GAVI: "Since 2000, Gavi has supported the world’s poorest countries to reach half a billion children with vaccines."