LONDON — The United Kingdom has pledged to donate the equivalent of £330 million ($410 million) a year to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for the next five years.
The government said it will be the largest supporter of Gavi, which works to immunize children against infectious diseases such as measles and polio, as well as supporting the COVID-19 response.
Civil society leaders said the announcement, worth £1.65 billion in total, sent a strong signal to other donors ahead of the Gavi replenishment summit on June 4, which will now be held virtually. It was previously set to be held in the U.K.
“The coronavirus pandemic shows us now more than ever the vital role vaccines play in protecting us all,” said Anne-Marie Trevelyan, secretary of state for the U.K. Department for International Development.
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She continued: “By supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, we are helping stop the spread of infectious diseases, saving millions of lives and keeping Britain safe. As coronavirus vaccine trials begin, we need to make sure any successful vaccine will be available to everyone. Gavi will be integral to achieving this, so we can protect the U.K. and the NHS from future waves of infection.”
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the Gavi board, said: “This pledge will make a huge difference to these efforts and I’d like to thank the U.K., as Gavi’s biggest donor since its inception, for their leadership over the past two decades.”
The U.K. has also been a major donor to coronavirus immunization research. In March, it allocated £250 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations for its work on vaccines.
Civil society figures in the U.K. reacted positively to the announcement. Aaron Oxley, executive director of the RESULTS anti-poverty campaign group, said that “as well as immunizing an additional 75 million children, it will play a crucial role in strengthening health systems in some of the world's poorest countries. COVID-19 has made it clearer than ever that we need a strong global health infrastructure to meet global health challenges faced by people everywhere."
Claire Ward, health advocacy adviser at Save The Children, said it was a “very good” development but warned that “the job is not yet done” as there are still 20 million children who miss out on routine immunization.
She also pointed to the importance of building strong health systems that can provide surveillance for diseases, including novel diseases like COVID-19.