Gavi Vaccine Alliance Honored With 2019 Lasker Public Service Award

Megan Brooks

September 10, 2019

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is the recipient of the 2019 Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award for providing sustained access to childhood vaccines around the world, saving millions of lives, and highlighting the power of immunization to prevent disease, the Lasker Foundation announced today.

Since inception in 2000, Gavi has helped vaccinate over 760 million children and save over 13 million lives in 73 countries, the Foundation said in a release.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunization prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year. Yet millions of children around the world remain underimmunized. In 2000, nearly 30 million children in developing nations were not fully immunized.

Gavi was launched to tackle the problem, receiving $750 million of seed money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Key players in the global immunization world, including UNICEF, the World Bank, and WHO, quickly came on board. Gavi has teamed up with governments, research agencies, and other entities from the public and private sectors to boost immunization rates.

Very Successful Model

By pooling the resources of private and public partners, the organization has generated an estimated $150 billion in economic benefits through productivity gains and healthcare cost savings.

Because the Alliance purchases vaccines for roughly 60% of children around the world, it can negotiate reduced pricing for drugs while sustaining suppliers. The 11 Gavi-supported childhood immunizations that WHO recommends for children and adolescents cost about $1300 in the US and $28 in Gavi countries.

Low-income countries pay a portion of the expenses of the vaccines that Gavi supports. As a country's financial capacity expands, so does its share, thus creating a positive feedback loop. To date, 15 countries have completed the transition and now fully finance their vaccine programs.

Over the years, Gavi has supported more than 460 vaccine campaigns around the world. Gavi provides access not only to the basic WHO-recommended childhood immunizations, but also to those that stem outbreaks of regional diseases such as cholera and yellow fever. The Alliance has helped create new delivery infrastructure, from solar-powered refrigerators to drone delivery.

"By transporting these life-saving medical interventions from the planet's most sophisticated research centers and production facilities to deep, elusive pockets of the globe, Gavi is imprinting a new standard of health and well-being on the world," the Foundation said.

The Gavi model has been "very successful," Gavi CEO Seth Berkley, MD, said during a Lasker Foundation press briefing. 

He noted that the Gavi model will be useful when new vaccines are developed. "Science will bring us, I'm convinced, a malaria vaccine, TB vaccine, and ultimately I hope an HIV vaccine, and so building out these systems are absolutely critical," he said.

A YouTube video provides more information on the birth of Gavi and what it has accomplished to date. 

The Lasker Award carries an honorarium of $250,000 and will be presented at a ceremony September 20 in New York City.

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