On Thursday 4 June, under the stewardship of British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, the third global summit of The Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) took place from London on a virtual basis. The Alliance, now in its 20th year, held this pledging conference with the aim of raising US$7.4 billion US dollars and although Covid-19 was on everyone’s minds, Polio was mentioned way over 30 times by the representatives of participating countries. World leaders from Angela Merkel to President Macron used Polio as an example to demonstrate how vaccines had nearly eradicated disease. It was also an eye opener to see how many Prime Ministers, leading health Ministers and decision-makers were female – equality in action.
Some statistics quoted were mind boggling – 18.5 million children missing out on their usual vaccines due to the disruption of the Corona virus. Over the last few years, 760 million children have been vaccinated against disease saving up to eight million lives. However, in the immediate past, 10 million children have died before their first birthday due to the lack of a proper vaccine programme. During the next five years of GAVI’s programme, it aims to facilitate the vaccination of 300 million children against Polio, measles and malaria.
The broadcast (mainly in English) was fascinating and was summed up with the words ‘vaccination means freedom from fear – that is our universal right”. We can be proud that Great Britain was the largest single donor to GAVI’s appeal. My regret is that there was not a Polio vaccine at the time in our country when so many died, and so many of us suffered then and are still suffering now.
Although Boris Johnson was ‘the leader of the band’ the real star was Colin Powell’s friend, Bill Gates, who rounded off the proceedings. Mr Gates was one of the founders of GAVI and pledged a further US$1 million towards Covid-19 vaccine development. We owe so much to the Gates Foundation for its Polio work. The conference raised a staggering US$8.8 million to save lives around the world.