Gavi smashes replenishment target at virtual summit

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech for the Global Vaccine Summit via video call from London. Photo by: REUTERS / Andrew Parsons / 10 Downing Street

LONDON — A replenishment for Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance secured a record $8.8 billion in funding for 2021 to 2025 on Thursday, exceeding the target of at least $7.4 billion.

Opinion: Government leaders and Gavi must do something new for equal access to COVID-19 vaccines

As fear mounts of a worldwide fight in which manufacturers prioritize selling to the highest bidders, important questions need to be answered before any fund is launched. This commentary outlines what should be done differently.

The virtual event, hosted by the U.K., was attended by 52 countries, including the U.S. and China. Gavi is aiming to reach 300 million children with immunizations against diseases such as measles, polio, and diphtheria over the next five years but is also set to play a key role in the distribution of any vaccine for COVID-19 to low-income countries.

“We’ve brought the world together around an important purpose, which is the lives of our children and the lives of all of us going forward,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of Gavi’s board, said of the event.

The U.K. government led the world in donations and committed to contributing £1.65 billion ($2.08 billion) over the next five years. It was followed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which donated $1.6 billion, and the U.S., with a commitment of $1.16 billion, its largest-ever donation.

The event, at which World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke, also saw a surprise appearance by U.S. President Donald Trump, who said he was persuaded to join by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The event served as a “real injection of confidence into the multilateral system,” according to Joe Cerrell, managing director of global policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation.

At a press conference following the event, Gavi CEO Seth Berkley discussed the $7.4 billion replenishment target, saying that “because we knew we were going into a much more challenging effort, we really want to focus on the ‘last mile.’”

He continued: “Today, 90% of children get access to at least one vaccine. But that last 10% that don’t get access … our goal is to chip away at that zero-dose child.”

Moving from $7.4 billion to $8.8 billion will provide adequate financing to do that, Berkley said.

“Today's summit demonstrates how many lives can be saved when world leaders demonstrate global solidarity.”

— Simon Starling, director of policy, advocacy, and research, Bond

As this funding target was set prior to the pandemic, Gavi also announced the launch of a new funding mechanism to provide COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. The Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines, or Gavi Covax AMC, will be based on Gavi’s pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment, which incentivizes vaccine-makers to produce affordable vaccines for the world's poorest countries. Gavi Covax AMC has some of the same donors, such as the U.K., Italy, and Norway.

The event saw a number of first-time contributions, including from low-income countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Uganda. “This year, the highest-ever amount, $3.6 billion … will be from developing country governments. … [It’s] the highest we’ve ever had and very significant,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

There were concerns among health advocates prior to the event that the coronavirus pandemic would overshadow concern around routine immunizations for diseases such as measles. Gavi and United Nations agencies recently warned that 80 million children could become sick as a result of the disruption to immunization campaigns caused by the pandemic.

But Berkley said it was “resounding” that this was not the case and that “people had spoken with their dollars” in support of routine vaccinations.

The event was celebrated by health advocacy groups and nongovernmental organization networks.

“Gavi plays a critical role in ensuring equitable access to lifesaving vaccines, reducing the unacceptable gaps in coverage both within countries and between countries,” said Aaron Oxley, executive director of RESULTS UK.

“Support for Gavi is needed more than ever to mitigate the impact of disruption to essential vaccination programs and support countries' health systems in this time of crisis,” he added.

This global solidarity is reassuring, considering the vast needs posed by COVID-19 crisis, said Simon Starling, director of policy, advocacy, and research at Bond, the network of U.K. NGOs.

"Today's summit demonstrates how many lives can be saved when world leaders demonstrate global solidarity by investing in health systems and provide lifesaving immunizations against diseases, in partnership with developing countries,” Starling said.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process.