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Bill Gates asks government leaders to increase their investments in vaccines

Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on Tuesday asked government leaders from across the globe to increase their investments in vaccines and to hold themselves accountable for extending the benefits of vaccines to every child.

In a keynote address at the 64th World Health Assembly, an annual gathering of health ministers and global health leaders, Bill Gates laid out his vision for the impact that broadening access to vaccines can have on the world.

Calling all 193 member states to make vaccines a central focus of their health systems, Bill Gates said they must pledge to meet vaccine coverage targets of 90 per cent at the country level with no district below 80 per cent, and ensure that all children have access to existing vaccines and to new ones as they become available.

“Strong immunisation systems will put an end to polio and help us reach all children with five to six new vaccines,” Bill Gates said in Geneva. “We can save four million lives by 2015, and 10 million lives by 2020.”

Bill Gates is more optimistic than ever about the impact of vaccines. “Vaccines are inexpensive, they are easy to deliver, and they are proven to protect children from disease,” he declared.

Bill Gates also announced that starting in 2012, his foundation would bestow an award on an individual or organisation that has made a uniquely innovative contribution to the Decade of Vaccines. The innovation could be in the science, the delivery, or the financing of vaccines.

“The best immunisation systems work because leaders hold themselves accountable for results,” Bill Gates said. “Leaders diagnose weaknesses, innovate to address them, and spread the best ideas.”

Bill Gates cited leaders in India and Nigeria who are responsible for increasing immunisation rates in their states, and praised the success of the new Meningitis A vaccine that was rolled out in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger last December, to emphasize the importance of commitments to immunization.

Bill Gates also called on pharmaceutical manufacturers to commit to making sure vaccines are affordable for poor countries. Gates said he was confident that the combined price of the pentavalent, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines could be cut in half by 2015.

“I believe we have the opportunity to make a new future in which global health is the cornerstone of global prosperity,” Bill Gates added.

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