Cameron pledges more money to fund child vaccines

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged £814m to help vaccinate children around the world against preventable diseases like pneumonia.

He made the announcement at a summit in London where countries are being asked to give an extra £2.3bn ($3.7bn) by 2015 for child vaccines.

The Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation says this could help save four million lives in four years.

The UK has already committed more, £2bn over 30 years, than any other nation.

The extra £814m ($1.3bn) comes on top of the UK's existing commitment of £680m between 2011 and 2015.

Hosting the conference alongside Mr Cameron, Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates said he would be giving $1bn to help the campaign.

It is expected that by the end of the summit donations should exceed the £2.3bn target.
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The cost-effectiveness of immunisation is likely to be one of many arguments put forward at the conference ”

End Quote Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent, BBC News

* Surviving childhood in Sierra Leone


Mr Cameron said there was a "strong moral case" for keeping pledges Britain had made to the developing world, no matter the economic circumstances at home.

"Today we come together because we have the chance to save another four million lives."

He said the idea of children dying from pneumonia and diarrhoea should be "unthinkable" in 2011.

"To those who say fine but we should put off seeing through those promises to another day because right now we can't afford to help: I say - we can't afford to wait."

Two million under-fives die from pneumonia alone each year despite the existence of a vaccine to protect them.

It is estimated that three times as many children aged under five die from pneumonia and diarrhoea than from malaria and HIV/Aids combined, despite new vaccines being available to help prevent such deaths. However, many developing countries cannot afford them.

Drugs company GlaxoSmithKline last week agreed to sell a vaccine for diarrhoeal disease at cost price to poorer nations, and some other firms have since made similar moves.Gavi has already rolled out a range of vaccines to children in 19 countries but the organisation says it has not got the £2.3bn needed to vaccinate those in 26 others.

This leaves the lives of four million children at risk, it says.

Resources will also be spent on trying to reach millions of the poorest children who are missing out on basic vaccines against diseases such as measles, whooping cough and tetanus.

Gavi is a health partnership of governments, businesses, and bodies including the World Bank, Unicef and Mr Gates' personal foundation.

Ahead of Monday's conference, the philanthropist said: "This is my life's work, and days like tomorrow energise us to do even better. I think a success would create incredible momentum.

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Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates: "In the achievement of vaccine equality this is a very important day"

"I know that the whole image of aid can be saved if people know it's about saving lives."

The Save the Children charity says the leaders at the conference have a "make-or-break opportunity".

Chief executive Justin Forsyth said: "We are on the cusp of an historic breakthrough that would save millions of lives.

"We have new vaccines to tackle appalling common childhood killers like diarrhoea and more children than ever are getting immunised against illnesses like whooping cough. But without pledges, that incredible progress could stall."

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