The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to spend more than US$10 billion on vaccine development and deployment in the next decade.
The funding, more than double the amount donated to vaccines by the foundation over the previous decade, was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week (29 January).
It will go towards providing 90 per cent vaccine coverage in target countries and aims to prevent the deaths of over eight million children in the next nine years, said Melinda Gates.
Together with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) — which will receive a significant proportion of the money — the foundation aims to take a "comprehensive approach, from the research and development end right down to the delivery end", said Julian Lob-Levyt, chief executive officer of GAVI.
The money will be spent on the development of new vaccines for infections such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumococcal pneumonia and rotavirus — which causes severe infant diarrhoea — and on scaling up the delivery of vaccines such as diphtheria, pertussis and polio (DPT) in the developing world.
Several new vaccines are in the pipeline. This week's New England Journal of Medicine reports promising results from studies of a rotavirus vaccine (see Rotavirus vaccine repeats success in poor nations), and GlaxoSmithKline's RTS,S malaria vaccine is currently in phase III clinical trials — the final stage of assessment before being available for widespread use.
The Gates Foundation has been pivotal to the development of malaria vaccines, Christian Loucq, director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, told SciDev.Net. He welcomed the extra funding to "finish the job of vaccine development and to launch them in the countries where they are required".
Hassan Mshinda, director-general of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, also emphasised the importance of funding vaccine deployment in developing countries.
Previous funding from the foundation has mainly gone towards basic research and development of vaccines, he said, and "the news that this time deployment has been taken seriously is very good news to public health communities and the general public".
But he said the funding should be complemented by support from development agencies and governments for research into health systems. This would strengthen the health systems which will deliver the vaccines, he said.