NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 1998 — Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates this week announced the formation of the Children’s Vaccine Program, a $100 million public health effort to ensure that children in the developing world have faster access to new vaccines.
The program, which begins immediately, will concentrate on distributing new vaccines that protect children from respiratory and diarrheal diseases as well as hepatitis B. These diseases are a serious problem in developing countries, killing more than two million children each year. The program will work with governments and vaccine manufacturers to create faster ways to distribute new vaccines for these diseases.
Inadequate vaccination is a major problem in developing countries, and children often suffer the most from uneven availability of health care. “New, life-saving vaccines quickly become available to children in the developed world,” said Gates. “But recent history shows us that children in the developing world can wait up to 15 years for the same drugs.” The Children’s Vaccine Program will find ways to quickly distribute new vaccines in a comprehensive and cost-effective manner, working with governments and local health officials to ensure consistent, sustainable vaccination programs. Since new vaccines are often very expensive, the program also will work with vaccine manufacturers to create conditions that favor adequate supplies and lower prices.
The program will be administered by the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), which will host the Children’s Vaccine Program at its Seattle headquarters. PATH works to improve world health by cooperating with government agencies in several countries to assess health problems and devise creative and effective solutions. With PATH’s help, the Children’s Vaccine Program will select countries in which to introduce new vaccines based on their ability to attain high coverage, viability of a sustained vaccination effort, and potential to serve as catalysts and models for other countries. The program is developing a work plan that includes disease-burden and cost-effectiveness studies, evaluation of model vaccine introduction programs and establishment of international consensus on recommendations for vaccine use.
The Children’s Vaccine Program is a program of the William H. Gates Foundation, which was established in 1994 by Bill and Melinda Gates to support initiatives in education, world health and population, as well as community giving in the Pacific Northwest. The Foundation is directed by William H. Gates Sr., and is located in Seattle, Wash.