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Vaccine Equity: Profitable for Kids and Companies

January 23, 2013

Smart business leaders know that millions of new customers await them in long-overlooked areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia if they can find the right entry strategies. This is one of the more exciting topics being discussed this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which we are both attending.

Many firms that have performed well in these emerging markets understand that success often follows those who make a positive impact on the lives of future customers. They recognize that their competitiveness and the health of communities where they do business are mutually dependent.

These same companies are forgoing traditional philanthropy and instead favor initiatives that make a measurable and long-term impact on individual lives and entire economies. Funding and supporting the delivery of life-saving vaccines is one proven way that the private sector can obtain measurable, long-term, and extremely cost-effective results.

The GAVI Alliance, a public-private health partnership, is working with a growing array of firms to dramatically increase the number of poor children who receive life-saving vaccines, thereby making a long-term investment in their families, communities and countries.

Why invest in immunization? Every year, 1.7 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. The vast majority of these deaths occur in developing countries, where one out of every five children remains unvaccinated.

 Funding and supporting the delivery of life-saving vaccines is one proven way that the private sector can obtain measurable, long-term, and extremely cost-effective results.

Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective health investments around. The cost of vaccines used to fully protect a child against the most dangerous diseases is less than $25 USD in GAVI countries.

Since 2000, GAVI, in partnership with the Gates Foundation and others, has helped immunize 370 million children, saving 5.5 million lives.

This is not charity. GAVI works only with recipient countries that help foot the bill. Take Tanzania, for example. This country of 46 million has a plan to transform itself into a middle-income economy by 2025. To succeed, the government recognized it must ensure good health for its citizens. By working closely with GAVI and its partners, Tanzania has increased its routine vaccine coverage rates to above 90%, while co-financing about 10% of the cost of the vaccines. In parallel, the country’s GDP growth has risen to US$ 23.7 billion from US$ 10.2 billion in 2001.

Private sector involvement means not just financial contributions, but also application of core business skills – such as supply chain expertise, technology and advocacy– to help provide vaccines to the world’s poorest children. For example:

  • Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies, will help health ministries in GAVI-supported countries in sub-Saharan Africa use mobile technology solutions to improve their immunization programs.
  • Comic Relief, the popular UK charity, has partnered with GAVI to significantly raise awareness of the need for vaccines in the developing world. Last April, it featured immunization as part of its annual appeal in the UK, which was viewed by millions and has helped raise US$ 24 million for GAVI.

These and private sector partners – Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, “la Caixa” Foundation and LDS Charities – are part of the GAVI Matching Fund, under which every dollar donated or gift-in-kind contributed by a private entity, its customers and employees is matched by the Gates Foundation or the UK government.

For a contribution of $1.5 million, for example, GAVI can buy enough vaccines to immunize about 142,000 children against pneumococcal disease or 272,000 children against rotavirus – the two biggest killers of children under age five.

We need your help. If you think your company might be interested in becoming GAVI’s next private partner, let us know. You’ll be joining an elite group of firms who recognize that investing in life-saving vaccines can provide both short-term results by saving lives as well as long-term business dividends.

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