DAVOS, SWITZERLAND -Washington Post - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $10 billion over the next decade to research vaccines and make them available to the world's poorest countries, the Microsoft co-founder and his wife said Friday.
Calling on governments and businesses to contribute, the Gateses said the initiative will produce higher immunization rates and is intended to protect 90 percent of children in poorer countries against such dangerous conditions as diarrhea and pneumonia.
"We must make this the decade of vaccines," Bill Gates said in a statement. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."
Gates said the commitment will more than double the $4.5 billion the foundation has given to vaccine research over the years.
The foundation said as many as 7.6 million children younger than 5 could be saved through 2019 as a result of the donation. It also estimates that an additional 1.1 million children would be saved if a malaria vaccine was introduced by 2014. A tuberculosis vaccine would prevent even more deaths.
"Vaccines are a miracle," Melinda Gates said. "With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime."
Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, called the Gates contribution unprecedented, and she urged governments and private donors to add to the initiative.
"An additional 2 million deaths in children under five years could be prevented by 2015 through widespread use of new vaccines and a 10 percent increase in global vaccination coverage," Chan said.
The Gates statement said the foundation would help to dramatically reduce child mortality in the next 10 years and urged others to pitch in with research funding and other financial support for poor children.