Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Not Your Typical Vaccine Conference

April 22, 2013

This week I’m going to Abu Dhabi to attend the Global Vaccine Summit to celebrate the tremendous progress the world has made in ending polio and immunizing children.

This isn’t going to be typical conference. We aren’t going to have breakout sessions or canvas bags crammed with printed reports to take home. We’ll be there to do just two things: first, celebrate the progress we’ve made in the Decade of Vaccines to reach all kids, everywhere, with the vaccines they need; and second, to share best practices and have some frank discussions on what still needs to be done. As part of that, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will roll out a new strategy to end polio once and for all. Global leaders will discuss their confidence in the plan and pledge political and financial commitments to help ensure its success.

Why Abu Dhabi? His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, is joining UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and me to host the Summit, the first of its kind. The Crown Prince, an important partner of the foundation across several issues, represents to me the inspirational leadership we are seeing from the Middle Eastern and Islamic communities to improve child health worldwide.

In my talk, I’m going to share some of the numbers that impress me, such as the measurement systems that have allowed Ghana to build a strong immunization system. And I’ll share numbers that make me angry.  For example, a child born in a low-income country is 18 times more likely to die before reaching the age of five compared to a child in a high-income country—largely due to preventable causes. That inequity is simply unacceptable and completely fixable.

I’m excited to meet some pretty amazing heroes while I’m there, too. World leaders like Jose Manuel Barroso and Kofi Annan will appear alongside Ade Adepitan, a British Paralympic medalist who contracted polio as a child in Nigeria, and Sikha Patra and Salim Shekh, two kids from India who organize polio immunizations for their community in Calcutta. I get to meet the two winners of my annual Gates Vaccine Innovation Award, too. Archie Panjabi will be our emcee. She appears on the American series The Good Wife and is using her celebrity to be a strong advocate for ending polio.

Thousands of people—scientists, investors, health experts, community leaders—are involved in the process of immunizing a child.  We need to have the right vaccines, developed and manufactured at affordable prices, delivered to the hardest-to-reach children. It is crucial to build up strong routine immunization systems to protect our gains against polio and provide a platform for primary care. When the world comes together, we can set ambitious goals, we can measure our progress, and we can achieve even more.  I’m counting on the Global Vaccine Summit to do just that.

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