Friday, January 29, 2010

Gates Foundation $10 Billion on Vaccines - What about world population pressures without death?


Philanthropists Bill Gates and Melinda Gates said Friday they would spend $10 billion to develop and deliver new vaccines over the next decade, highlighting growing concerns that the global recession and competing government priorities will stifle efforts to control diseases in developing countries.

The money, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, marks an increase from the roughly $800 million the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation now spends annually on vaccine work.

"Hopefully we'll have some breakthroughs," Mr. Gates said in an interview this week, pointing to funding from his foundation aimed at finding a vaccine for malaria.

The money, combined with a call by Mr. Gates for continued investment in vaccines from other donors, comes amid growing worries at the World Health Organization and other health groups that funding shortfalls will stifle the distribution of promising new vaccines and allow diseases like polio to spread in new areas.

Those worries are particularly acute as health officials start rolling out new vaccines that prevent rotavirus, a cause of severe diarrhea, and pneumococcal disease. The new vaccines are fueling concerns in developing countries, many with decrepit primary health care systems, already struggling with how to deliver existing vaccines.

Many African countries, for instance, lack the refrigeration, or "cold chain," needed to keep vaccines fresh while they are being stored and transported.

Mr. Gates said the planned funding means that his foundation will spend a higher proportion of its total endowment on vaccines over the next ten years than it did in the past ten years. "Because of the impact we're seeing from vaccines we'll actually spend a higher percentage on vaccines," he said.

With an endowment of about $34 billion, the Gates Foundation is the world's largest private philanthropy. Since its inception about ten years ago, the foundation has spent $4.5 billion on vaccines, including work on vaccines for malaria, AIDS and rotavirus.

The funding announcement follows a public letter this week, in which Mr. Gates highlighted the need for governments to not to cut their foreign aid amid broader budget and debt pressures.

That threat is exacerbated, he wrote, by the competing priority of global warming, which is expected to tap more public money from nations over the next decade. "I am concerned that some of this money will come from reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health," he wrote.

Write to Robert A. Guth at

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