At about 15.30 yesterday in Berlin, Dagfinn Hoybraten, the Chair of the Gavi Board (Gavi is the international body that channels aid for immunisation to developing countries) got a little tearful as he thanked everyone and Gavi staff in particular. The reason was that they had just announced that the target of achieving the goal of $7.5 billion to fund Gavi’s next strategy had been successful.
By the time it was announced, there was high tension. The day had started with speeches from Chancellor Merkel, Justin Greening, Bill Gates and Save the Children’s Jasmine Whitbread. Save the Children has been working hard supporting the Gavi replenishment, especially in the German, British, Norwegian and global teams. Governments announced their contributions but in different currencies, some for different time periods and some wanting other contributions to be considered, so blurring the lines. In addition, the dollar is suddenly much stronger against other currencies and this has reduced the dollar value of contributions.
Germany made a massive increase in their contribution, and Norway and the USA also made increases that achieved the total. Other countries went down or stayed still, including the UK, which was true to its word and went from contributing nearly a third of the total to just over a quarter. Based on the exchange rate yesterday, the UK is still the largest donor to Gavi, slightly above the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Many pharmaceutical companies also offered their support yesterday by making commitments to help prices of vaccines go lower.
What’s remarkable is the particular support that donor governments have for immunisation and Gavi. As we found with our campaigning, it’s a very clear story. Aid money buys vaccines, which are a short-term action with a long-term effect. It seems to have cross-party support in donor countries, which helps in making five-year promises.
Of course, as I have blogged before, the reality of what Gavi now needs to do to use this $7.5bn to deliver its ambitious is much more complicated. Delivering vaccines into a port or airport is not, on its own, good enough. Countries need to employ the health workers, set the plans and strategies, monitor performance and quality, and plan for funding the vaccines when Gavi support stops. Gavi’s next strategy gives it a mandate to support health systems.
Now that Gavi is funded, Save the Children will be engaged with the development of the strategy. But we also need to look at the wider immunisation world – especially as the Global Vaccine Action Plan has just reported that the world is failing in the targets it set to get certain immunisations to all populations by the end of this year.