SEATTLE, Washington — Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, aims to make the future COVID-19 vaccine more accessible around the world. In the last 20 years, Gavi has helped vaccinate more than 760 million people in low-income countries against preventable diseases like pneumonia and meningitis, saving an estimated 13 million lives. This nonprofit public-private partnership collaborates with governments, vaccine manufacturers and the United Nations, among others. In April 2020, Gavi reported that it would be helping health systems in 13 low-income countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gavi is also working to ensure fair deployment of the vaccination for COVID-19 once it is available.
How Vaccines Reduce Global Poverty
Children protected from preventable diseases are better equipped to complete their education because they are likely able to attend school more consistently. Higher education rates have a positive impact on economic growth, contributing to lower unemployment rates and reduced income inequality.
Also, when children are vaccinated, their families are more likely to avoid medical impoverishment caused by high healthcare expenses. Every year, significant and unexpected medical costs push about 100 million people below the global poverty line of $1.90 per day, according to a 2018 Health Affairs study.
Creating an Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine
After two decades of experience immunizing people in the world’s poorest countries, Gavi is now planning for efficient and equitable production and delivery of the vaccination for COVID-19. Gavi is dedicated to making sure the COVID-19 vaccine is developed as quickly as possible, with sufficient supplies for low-income countries. Once the vaccine is available, Gavi will focus on ensuring that vaccines are distributed adequately.
Since the start of the pandemic, a staggering amount of COVID-19 cases, as well as COVID-19 related deaths, have occurred in the 66 low-income countries supported by Gavi. These numbers are rising, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, has stated that the organization and its partners, such as the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF and others, “will be urgently exploring mechanisms and incentives to ensure vaccines are available to the most vulnerable, no matter where they live.”
Gavi’s COVID-19 Response Efforts
According to a Gavi analysis, “without any mitigation strategies, COVID-19 could lead to 12.9 million deaths in the 73 lowest-income countries.” In March 2020, Gavi committed to aiding health systems and communities in at least 13 low-income countries with the COVID-19 response effort. Another 21 additional countries requested assistance from Gavi as well. In total Gavi contributed approximately $200 million to help countries respond to the pandemic. Gavi’s contributions will help provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and fund emergency response coordination, community and civil society engagement, risk communication as well as diagnostic tests.
Gavi has already approved $7.4 million for Myanmar, $6 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and $5 million for Ethiopia, along with 10 other countries that require urgent funding.
The Importance of Vaccination Access
According to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, “Vaccines can only save lives if everyone who needs them can access them, especially in the most vulnerable communities and regions of the world.” In May, the European Commission, along with the European Union and other government partners, pledged more than $550 million to assist Gavi with the distribution of the forthcoming vaccination for COVID-19.
While increased access to vaccines clearly saves lives, it can also have a positive impact on economies and keep families from being forced into poverty, making Gavi’s work during COVID-19 inexplicably important.
– Rachel Powell