Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pledged USD 15-million as India's contribution to the vaccines alliance GAVI at the Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK. The summit, held virtually given the coronavirus pandemic lockdown around the world, was opened by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge nations around the world to pledge funding for vaccinations to save millions of lives and protect the world from future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Modi said, "Our support to Gavi is not only financial. India's huge demand brings down the global price of vaccines." "In today's challenging context, I want to reiterate that India stands in solidarity with the world. Our proven capacity to produce quality medicines and vaccines at low cost, our own domestic experience in rapidly expanding immunisation, and our considerable scientific research talent are all at the service of humanity," he said.
Modi was among around 35 heads of state and government participants, including US President Donald Trump, to virtually join the conference aimed at raising USD 7.4 million to immunise a further 300 million children in the world's poorest countries by 2025. Modi pledged that the world can "count on India's support" in the critical mission of vaccination against infectious diseases, highlighting the country's role as the world's fourth-largest producer of vaccines.
The Indian prime minister also pointed to the government's Mission Indradhanush, which aims to ensure full vaccination of children and pregnant women, as a sign of the importance attached to immunisation within the country.
He said: "We are fortunate to contribute to the immunisation of about 60 per cent of the world's children. India recognises and values the work of Gavi, which is why we became a donor to Gavi while still being eligible for Gavi's support." "Gavi is not just a global alliance, it is also a symbol of global solidarity and a reminder that by helping others, we can also help ourselves," he said.
The UK government said the funding raised from the summit will not only protect children from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles and save up to 8 million lives, but will also help ensure a global recovery from the coronavirus.
"Just as the UK is the single biggest donor to the international effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, we will remain the world's leading donor to Gavi, contributing 1.65 billion pounds over the next five years. I urge you to join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health cooperation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes," Johnson said in his address.
The UK said that vaccinating millions of children against these other deadly diseases would help protect healthcare systems in the world's poorest countries so they can cope with rising coronavirus cases. Health experts have warned that if the virus is left to spread in developing countries, this could lead to future waves of infection reaching the UK, Downing Street said.
As the world focuses on tackling coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi have warned that the pandemic is disrupting routine immunisation, affecting approximately 80 million children under the age of one across 68 countries. "The world is quite rightly focusing on responding to the invisible killer that is coronavirus. But we cannot allow this pandemic to disrupt routine immunisation in some of the world's poorest countries and cause other deadly diseases to spread across the globe," said UK International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
"We know vaccines work, which is why at today's summit we need others to step up and pledge funds to Gavi, so it can continue to save the lives of millions of children and protect everyone from infectious diseases," she said. Gavi is addressing the immediate needs triggered by coronavirus, including providing essential medical supplies and helping to increase testing and surveillance of the disease.
As part of the global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, the UK is also the single largest donor of any country to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations' (CEPI) urgent appeal. If a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is developed, Gavi will have a role in its delivery around the world. Global access will ensure a collective international recovery and reduce the risk of future waves of infection.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said: "Over the past two decades we have witnessed incredible progress boosting vaccine coverage in the world's poorest countries: more children in more countries are now protected against more diseases than at any point in history. "However, these historic advances in global health are now at risk of unravelling as Covid-19 causes unprecedented disruption to vaccine programmes worldwide. We face the very real prospect of a global resurgence of diseases like measles, polio and yellow fever, which would put us all at risk.
"That's why the Global Vaccine Summit is so important, bringing together leaders from around the world - led by the UK - to build global health security and keep us all safe from further outbreaks," Berkley said.