A decade ago, Bill Gates made his first major foray into the world of global health with a $750 million grant to boost immunization of the planet’s poorest children.
On Friday, the Microsoft co-founder and his wife re-upped for the battle in a big way. The $10 billion, 10-year commitment to childhood vaccines they announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, ranks as the biggest philanthropic pledge ever to a single cause.
But despite the staggering amount of cash he’s putting on the table, Gates was really making a plea for others to ante up.
The world’s richest man has become adept at parlaying his superstar status and access to the corridors of power into gains for global health funding, and he leaned hard on world leaders gathered in Davos.
“Our commitment alone isn’t enough,” Gates said at a news conference. “We need the increased generosity of the rich world governments.”
Saving lives is the goal behind the Gateses’ cheerful pressure and posturing. If funding is sufficient to immunize 90 percent of children in the developing world, more than 8 million deaths can be averted over the next decade, according to an analysis conducted for the Gates Foundation by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“We think the stage is set for extraordinary progress,” said Melinda Gates.
The foundation’s initial vaccine investments created a new organization called GAVI, or the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.
In an example of Gates’ leveraging power, GAVI now gets funding from 17 nations. Its programs helped boost global rates of vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough from 66 percent to 79 percent. Along with the introduction of other vaccines in the developing world, the World Health Organization estimates those efforts have prevented about 5 million child deaths.