Since the start of the year, we have been advocating for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to make sure that people everywhere can access the vaccinations they need to live healthy lives. Now, with COVID-19 impacting nearly every country on the planet, Gavi’s work has never been more important.
“As has become brutally clear in recent months, this disease doesn’t respect borders, which is why it will take a truly global response to defeat it. … Routine immunisation against other deadly diseases like measles, polio, yellow fever and diphtheria also must continue – we cannot have two global outbreaks on our hands.” — Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What exactly is Gavi?
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is an organisation that improves access to vaccines for the world’s most vulnerable children. It was founded in 2000 to “save lives, reduce poverty and protect the world against the threat of epidemics.”
Gavi partners with both the public and private sectors to achieve this mission. It works with nonprofits, advocacy organisations, governments, vaccine manufacturers, researchers and more to improve access to vaccines from all angles.
What might the world look like without Gavi?
In the past 20 years, Gavi has helped immunise 760 million children and has saved more than 13 million lives. Currently, it helps vaccinate almost half of the world’s children. Without Gavi, millions of people alive today wouldn’t have protection against deadly diseases.
The results of Gavi’s work extends far beyond the doctor’s office. Not only has Gavi helped to make the world a better, healthier place through its vaccine intervention programmes, it’s also spent the past two decades helping countries strengthen their health systems more broadly, recruit and train health workers, and improve infrastructure to make sure healthcare is accessible. Gavi’s work in these key areas will be more valuable than ever before as countries work to fight the global pandemic and eventually help with efforts to equitably distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
What is Gavi doing to fight COVID-19?
Seth Berkley, Gavi’s CEO, says, “Health systems across the developing world face their biggest test in living memory, and Gavi is helping them to meet it.” Gavi has committed to providing an initial amount of over US$42 million in urgent funding to 30 countries, which will support countries in their response to COVID-19 by enabling them to protect healthcare workers with PPE, perform trainings, and fund diagnostic tests. Gavi is seeking to provide additional support to its beneficiary countries and funding up to US$200 million is likely be approved in the near future.
How does Gavi deliver such incredible results?
Gavi’s life-saving work is possible through a three-pronged approach:
1. Gavi finances the purchase of vaccines. The funding that Gavi receives from donors goes directly towards making sure low-income countries have the vaccines they need. It provides vaccinations for some of the most common and deadly diseases, including polio, typhoid, measles and yellow fever.
2. Gavi helps strengthen countries’ own immunisation programmes and broader health systems. When a country receives support from Gavi, there’s a clear pathway to strengthening its own health systems. All recipient countries co-finance vaccines alongside Gavi. As a country becomes wealthier, it pays more, which allows a country to build a sustainable health system that will eventually no longer need Gavi’s support. In other words, Gavi supports long-term growth in health in addition to day-to-day health services.
3. Gavi shapes vaccine markets to increase supply and reduce prices. It works directly with vaccine suppliers to produce vaccines at a lower cost to make them more easily affordable for people living in poverty. By doing this, Gavi has greatly reduced the price of vaccines and made the market more accessible. For example, the cost of fully immunising a child with pentavalent, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines dropped by 21% since 2015.
These three approaches help to create a sustainable immunisation programme within each of the Gavi countries.
How is vaccine hesitancy affecting Gavi?
Vaccine hesitancy — as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) — is the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services. WHO identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 health threats to the world in 2019.
Like so many other places in the world, a growing number of people in sub-Saharan African countries are delaying or refusing vaccines for themselves or their children. Much of this hesitancy is borne out of a lack of trust in government, the health care delivery system, and the vaccine industry, as well as misinformation surrounding common side effects after immunisation.
Without adequate levels of vaccination, communities everywhere are more susceptible to disease outbreaks.
What might the world look like if Gavi gets fully replenished?
This year, we have an opportunity to help Gavi continue their life-saving work. Gavi’s third Replenishment will take place this June, where it hopes to reach an ambitious goal of at least US$7.4 billion in additional funding.
If Gavi reaches this goal, it will be a vital step towards making vaccines work for everyone, everywhere and making sure that a COVID-19 vaccine is accessible to all who need it. The funding will allow it and its partners to vaccinate hundreds of millions more children and save millions more lives. Some of this money will be invested into strengthening health systems, which will help improve overall health care in addition to getting more people vaccinated.
What can I do to support Gavi?
Join us in making sure world leaders take action to help Gavi keep up their incredible, life-saving and poverty-eradicating work.
This blog was first published on 25 January 2020 and updated on 23 April 2020.