The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $10 billion over the next decade to fund new vaccines that can be used to fight diseases in poor countries worldwide.
The $10 billion pledged is in addition to $4.5 billion that the foundation has already devoted to the research, development, and launching of vaccines. The couple made the announcement Friday in Switzerland at the 40th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit that tries to tie together material progress with social development.
In pledging the $10 billion, the foundation hopes to close gaps in current funding for research into new vaccines and childhood immunization programs. It has also called for more investment in vaccines from government and the private sector, which it believes could help turn the tide on childhood mortality by the end of the decade.
"We must make this the decade of vaccines," Bill Gates said at the press conference to announce the donation. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."
Research cited by the foundation has found that deploying vaccines to cover 90 percent of developing countries could save the lives of up to 7.6 million children under 5 throughout this decade. These vaccines could also combat diseases such as severe diarrhea and pneumonia, which claim the lives of millions of children each year. A vaccine to fight malaria could prevent the deaths of an additional 1.1 million children, according to the research.
"Vaccines are a miracle--with just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime," Melinda Gates said. "We've made vaccines our No. 1 priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen first hand their incredible impact on children's lives."
The Gateses were joined at the press conference by Julian Lob-Levyt, chief executive officer of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a group started at the World Economic Forum 10 years ago. Comprised of members in both the public and private sectors, GAVI provides financial support for vaccines and other supplies and services to countries with low per-capita income. The alliance was formed at a time when the availability of vaccines around the world was dropping.
In a recent interview with CNET, Gates spoke about his foundation's work related to vaccines, at which time he said that the distribution of vaccines has proven to be trickier than he anticipated.
Here is a video of the press conference on Friday: