Last week in Geneva and Brussels, global immunizations celebrated their tremendous past and set the stage for an even more promising future. At the World Health Assembly, the world's health ministers recognized four decades of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), and in Brussels the GAVI Alliance kicked off its ambitious plan for its fourth phase, 2016-2020. Together, the EPI and GAVI have saved the lives of millions of children, and their potential for impact has never been greater.
Credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Prashant Panjiar
First, we celebrated the 40th anniversary one of the greatest global health achievements in history -- the groundbreaking launch of the EPI. In 1974, the public health community had much to celebrate -- smallpox eradication was within reach for the first time, and vaccines, delivered through well-managed and nimble programs, were steadily, demonstrably improving and saving lives. It was against this backdrop that The World Health Organization established the Expanded Program on Immunization, which aimed to routinely protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
The year of the program's creation, only 5 percent of children were protected from six diseases targeted by four vaccines. Since then, the percentage of vaccinated children in the world has increased exponentially to 83 percent -- and the number of public health vaccines used for universal protection has more than doubled. To say this has been a global health accomplishment of epic proportions would not be an overstatement.
Another game-changer in vaccine delivery came in 2000, with the creation of the GAVI Alliance -- the highly impactful public-private partnership that has brought vaccines to hundreds of millions of children in the developing world. Since 2000, the GAVI partnership has helped to vaccinate an additional 440 million children -- a tremendous global health achievement that has saved lives, strengthened families and communities, and helped underpin the development of entire nations.
Last week, the GAVI Alliance kicked off its second donor pledging process, with the goal of generating enough funds to double its impact -- and reach one billion children with lifesaving vaccines -- by 2020. It was clear from the atmosphere of excitement in Brussels and in the news covering the event that GAVI's replenishment has incited a spirit of positivity, action and collaboration, and set the stage for remarkable expansion of their immunization efforts.
Today, the goal of universal immunization is not only imaginable, but achievable. Combining EPI's time-tested expertise and methodology with GAVI's unique financing and supply mechanisms has equated to unstoppable impact in vaccination in recent years. In this, the Decade of Vaccines, this week marks an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and double down on our next phase by helping the GAVI Alliance raise the $7.5 billion it needs to save 6 million lives. You can learn more about GAVI here: www.gavialliance.org.
In the lead-up to 2020, it's time to pair cooperation and commitment to make a proven investment in future generations. It's time to vaccelerate.