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Speech by Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director at GAVI Replenishing Event

London, 13 June 2011

Thank you very much, Secretary Mitchell, for all your leadership in this conference and with this cause.    I am very glad to be here and to express UNICEF’s unwavering commitment to the GAVI Alliance and to our common goal. Because reaching every child with lifesaving vaccines – by making them more available, more affordable and more accessible to the communities and countries in greatest need is absolutely vital.

Thanks to GAVI so many people in this room, including governments, the private sector and civil society – we are closer than ever to reaching that goal, but by no means there.

And we are thankful to you, and we are all indebted to someone who is not in this room, but who would like to be.  So before I offer my own brief comments this morning, it is my honor to share with you a message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

MESSAGE TO GAVI REPLENISHMENT CONFERENCE

London, 13 June 2011

“I am pleased to convey my best wishes and to express my support for the indispensable work of the GAVI Alliance.  I also would like to thank Prime Minister Cameron for hosting this event. 

GAVI has changed the way we wage war against preventable disease.  The Alliance has proven that with the introduction of new technologies, we can make a generational leap.  By daring to be imaginative, innovative and bold, we have raised significant capital and ensured the delivery of vaccines to those who need them most.  We have helped create markets so companies can develop more affordable products.

Our greatest prize has been the lives saved, and the futures of individuals and families that are now free of the threat of many preventable diseases.  GAVI has already helped to immunize more than 288 million children … and prevented more than 5 million deaths. 

Now, the Alliance is poised to attack the two biggest child-killing diseases: pneumonia and rotavirus.  It has prioritized HPV and rubella vaccines that will have a direct benefit for women’s health.

Expanding access to vaccines and immunization will also be essential to the success of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched by world leaders last year at the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals.  Our new accountability framework will measure that success.
 
Like the GAVI Alliance itself, our strategy is grounded in partnership and innovation.  It relies on a coordinated approach to supporting national efforts to strengthen health systems.  And its success depends on our ability to reach the most vulnerable women and children.

In this way, we will achieve more health for the money, save millions of lives, and ensure a better future for all people.

We must do everything we can to achieve this goal – and this also means promoting universal immunization. 

With your pledges, you are proving the power of partnership.  The power to protect a baby from pneumonia… or a woman from cervical cancer.  The power to prevent more than 4 million future deaths.  The power to build healthier communities and a stronger world.
 
Thank you for your leadership.  Most of all, I thank the GAVI Alliance for the results I am confident you will help to achieve.  I wish you all a very successful conference.”
Let me follow the SG’s message with one of my own.  UNICEF is proud to be a founding member of the GAVI Alliance.  We intend to strengthen our support because GAVI’s success is our success, all of our success, in saving children’s lives. 

Let me explain why.  Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s children receive vaccines – I believe around 82 per cent as measured by the 3rd dose of the DTP3 vaccine.  That’s around four out of every five children. 

But what of the fifth child – the child we don’t reach? 

We know she lives in one of the world’s poorest countries, only 5% of which currently receive new vaccines to prevent child killers like rotavirus or pneumococcal disease.  

We know she already faces many interrelated deprivations, which make her even more vulnerable to disease.

And we know that for these and other reasons, she is far more likely to die before reaching her fifth birthday.

We cannot rest until we reach that unreached child – and every one of the nearly 2 million children who die every year for the simple want of a simple vaccine.  For no immunization programme – indeed, no development programme – can succeed fully unless we carry the battle to the hardest to reach places.  We cannot, cannot succeed any other way.  

Indeed, immunization has already blazed the trail to achieve greater equity in health – for example, in the way polio and measles programmes can be the leading edge of efforts to reach into the poorer communities.

We must do more to make sure that more developing nations can afford to buy more vaccines – and that is why the GAVI Alliance’s efforts to shape the vaccine market are so critical.  Because a more competitive market is also a more equitable market, giving developing nations a better chance to protect their children from killer diseases.

GAVI proved this in achieving significant price reductions of the Hib vaccine, which will yield about $120 million in savings to developing countries.  These savings can then help these countries buy more vaccines and expand immunization campaigns to reach more children.

And the Gates Foundation and UNICEF, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical sector, proved this in reducing the price of polio vaccines and saving the Global Polio Eradication Initiative approximately $60 million. 

Together, we are creating a market that provides the poorest nations with the lowest prices … a market that better matches supply and demand and assures greater supply security … a market that encourages new suppliers and further increases competition … and a market that spurs greater innovation, helping to develop new vaccines, saving still more lives.    

We are also building a more transparent market.  As you all know, with GAVI’s strong support, UNICEF recently made public the prices we pay different suppliers for vaccines.  This will make be a huge difference – to help everybody to make more informed decisions in their own negotiations with suppliers.
 
At the same time, work continues to help nations build their market power by pooling their demand – and their purchasing.  Together, they can obtain lower prices than they can individually.   And because our goal is to reach every child, this also means helping nations sustain their vaccination gains, even when they have graduated from GAVI support.     

Of course, we must be realistic.  We know that some vaccines simply cost more to produce, and price reductions will take time and patience.  But we must not let realism defeat ambition, innovation and boldness. 

This is the Decade of Vaccines – and there is a good reason for it. 

In the 1980s, WHO, UNICEF, and other partners set out to achieve universal child immunization – and by 1990, more than three quarters of all children were receiving the DPT3 vaccine.  But having won this first victory, over the next decade public attention and political will moved on to other priorities … and our progress stalled.  Coverage even declined in some regions.  

The GAVI Alliance was formed in 1999 to re-ignite the global movement to achieve universal coverage – further galvanized by civil society, in particular the Gates Foundation. 

And campaign by campaign, community by community, child by child, we have begun to move once again in the right direction. 

Today, coverage is up to around 82% -- but still hovers at that level, leaving millions of children unreached.   We know where most of those children live – in the world’s poorest and most difficult places.  And we know what we must do. 

Having achieved so much, we cannot afford to watch our progress plateau.

Having climbed this much of the mountain, we must scale the next peak. 

We have the vaccines, we have the knowledge, and we must match them with our unshakeable commitment to save millions of lives.  

For the forgotten children … and for every child. 

Thank you. 


 

 

 

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