SEATTLE, Washington — Introduced by Senator Rubio and Senator Kaine, two members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, S. Res. 511 praises the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), for its work to expand access to vaccines and immunizations, especially to the most vulnerable children in developing countries. The bill expresses continued U.S. support for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, as “an efficient and effective mechanism to advance global health security and save lives,” and is currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate.
The Vaccine Alliance
Launched in January 2000, GAVI is an independent and multilateral public-private partnership that aims to “save lives, reduce poverty and protect the world against the threat of epidemics.” The organization’s primary goals include increasing equitable coverage of vaccines, strengthening healthcare systems to improve the effectiveness of immunization delivery and making national immunization programs more sustainable.
In the coming five years, GAVI will be shifting its focus toward serving unreached and under-immunized children. The organization will place greater emphasis on targeting its approaches for various GAVI-eligible countries and on programmatic sustainability. Furthermore, GAVI will prioritize vaccine introductions in developing countries and provide “limited and catalytic support for select former and never Gavi-eligible countries.”
GAVI receives funding from governments, most notably from the United Kingdom, United States and Norway, as well as from private donors. From the year 2000 to the end of 2019, the U.S. government has contributed well over $2 billion to the organization, making up 13% of GAVI’s total contributions. The largest private donor, the Gates Foundation, gave nearly $4 billion. This donation makes up around 20% percent of the contributions given over the last 20 years.
Because of GAVI’s work in developing countries, childhood mortality has been cut in half as an increase in worldwide immunization has prevented approximately 13 million deaths. These increased rates of immunization have led to a decline in the spread of deadly infectious diseases. This impact is especially important as it improves global health security despite challenges like climate change, conflict and human migration. On a national scale, GAVI has helped to improve several countries’ vaccine coverage and overall healthcare systems, which enables them to prevent disease outbreaks.
Besides direct public health benefits, GAVI’s work has allowed children to grow up healthier and communities to thrive, meaning that nations are more socially stable and prosperous. According to the GAVI website, for every $1 (U.S.) invested in vaccines in GAVI-supported countries, there is a $54 return in savings from averted illness and broader societal benefits of people living longer, healthier lives. In other words, there is a significant economic benefit to increasing vaccinations and immunizations.
Senate Resolution 511
S.Res. 511 expresses support for the United States’ role in helping to save the lives of children in developing countries with vaccines and immunization through GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. The resolution notes that providing access to vaccines can not only save children from dying of preventable diseases but also reduce poverty and spur economic growth. It states that GAVI has supported vaccine initiatives in 73 countries and has contributed to a 70% decline in the number of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. According to S.Res. 511, GAVI has helped over 760 million people get vaccinated.
Of the many successes of the organization, the resolution notes that it has altered the global market for vaccines so that prices are more predictable in developing countries and all around the world. GAVI has played a significant role in developing, testing and stockpiling vaccines for Ebola, polio and malaria, among other deadly diseases. According to the Senate resolution, the U.S. has always been a leading supporter of GAVI, and U.S. support for the organization will be crucial to its future success.
Thus, S.Res. 511 commends GAVI’s efforts to expand access to vaccines and immunization to the most vulnerable people around the world. It declares the U.S. Government’s support for the work of GAVI and its partners as an effective and efficient way to improve global health security, reduce deaths from preventable diseases and reduce the cost of vaccines. The resolution also affirms U.S. support for GAVI’s goal of securing at least $7.4 trillion in donor commitments at GAVI’s third donor replenishment meeting in June 2020.
Status of the Resolution
On February 27, 2020, Senator Marco Rubio [R-FL] introduced S. Res. 511. The resolution, which has seven cosponsors (6D, 1R), was assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration. On May 21, the Committee voted to issue a report on the resolution for the whole Senate to consider it further.
According to Dr. Joanne Carter, GAVI’s Executive Director of RESULTS, “Strong U.S. support for the GAVI Vaccine Alliance can help assist countries to immunize more than 300 million more children, helping prevent not just disease, but also poverty.” If passed, S.Res. 511 would be a meaningful, positive step toward this goal.
– Sarah Frazer