Commission announces €125 million immunisation package

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When the new mandate begins in July it will start by giving a €125 million package to fund vaccines and immunisation programmes worldwide. The package was been agreed by outgoing European Commission President Barroso, one of his last announcements before he stood down.
The funding, which is more than double the package previously committed, will provide €25 million each year from 2014-2020.

The money will be given to GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) a global organisation which aim to increase access to immunisation in developing countries across the world.

The announcement follows the Commission’s adoption of the successful Written Declaration, drafted by myself and colleagues in 2012 which was passed after reaching, and exceeding, the required 372 MEP signatories. The Declaration called for the Commission to increase and continue to support the need for vaccines in developing nations.

I was appalled when I learnt that approximately 1.5 million children die each year from diseases which are entirely preventable if only they were vaccinated against them.

The funding is a hugely important commitment from the European Union which shows how seriously it takes the issue and the length it will go to in order ensure greater access to vaccines is achieved in all corners of the globe.

The latest round of funding will go a long way to treating those who are most vulnerable to treatable diseases. In addition, the European Commission has committed over €83 million to the GAVI Alliance since 2003. Some half a billion children have been immunised since 2000 saving an approximately six million lives, the Commission estimates.


Written Declaration on vaccination and immunisation in developing countries gets through

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Regular readers will be very aware that I have been sponsoring a Written Declaration (similar to a House of Commons Early Day Motion) in the European Parliament on access to vaccination and immunisation in developing countries.

I am absolutely delighted to tell you that this Declaration has received enough signatures to be adopted as a resolution of the European Parliament. I will be speaking on this in the EuroParl Chamber later today. 

My thanks to my fellow MEPs who jointly the Declaration  – Veronique de Keyser, a Belgium Socialist and Democrat Group member, Sean Kelly from Ireland who belongs to the EPP Group, British Liberal-Democrat Bill Newton-Dunn and Marie-Christine Vergiat, a member of the Communist Party in France. 

 The Written Declaration urged the European Commission to make a continued commitment to reducing the number of vaccine preventable deaths in its future action. You may read the full text here: 

Thanks too to GAVI – the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, Global Health Advocates, the One Campaign and Results UK for all their help in getting signatures during the past few months.

While there is no doubt that there has been progress increasing vaccination coverage around the world, it is estimated that 1.7 million children continue to die of vaccine preventable diseases like polio each year. We can only hope that the Written Declaration will help in some way to reduce this number.

In support of World Immunisation Week- Guest Blog

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The ONE foundation, which was founded by U2 lead singer Bono to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases, has been doing some great work to raise awareness of the importance of adequate access to vaccinations and immunisations.

The organisation has also provided great support recently in my efforts to get a written declaration, full text here, to encourage  the EU to continue to support organisation’s like GAVI who provide vaccines and immunisations to those who are most in need.

GAVI’S mission is simple: ‘Save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.’ I think this simple mission statement is effective in its explanation, and it would be hard to argue that we should do anything but show our support for their important work.

This week marks World Immunisation Week where both organisations have the opportunity to highlight this the work they do and support the need to continue.

The week will highlight the importance of equity of access to immunisations. In order to ensure that there is adequate access they must receive proper funding.

Earlier in the week I wrote a guest blog for ONE’s blog on the week and the importance of continuing to raise awareness in an effort to save lives.

You can read the blog I wrote for them and others blogs here.



Bill Gates – Aid works: the EU needs to keep the ball rolling

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“Aid Works”. This was Bill Gates key message when he visited the European Parliament yesterday, as those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen.

During his visit I had the opportunity to ask him about what we need to be doing here in the European Parliament to increase the use of vaccines and immunisation in developing countries.

In his talk Mr Gates focused on the positive effect that aid has already had on many developing nations. He pointed out that success stories are often sidelined when it comes to talking about development since much of the coverage focuses on crisis situations. This positive angle is something that he hopes to promote with “Living Proof”, his partnership with the ONE Organisation.

Bill Gates praised the EU for its current and past commitment to development aid but stressed it was important to keep the ball rolling on this issue.

His speech highlighted the positive impact that agriculture and immunisation have in developing countries and the  far-reaching changes that projects focused on these two factors bring about. He also spoke of the importance of effective aid.

Gates pointed out that improving agricultural productivity reduces poverty more quickly than any other investment. Small farmers who are assisted in developing the means, in terms of technologies and knowledge, to improve their output are then able to provide greater support for their families. This can enable to send their children to school.

He also illustrated the massive effect vaccination programmes have had on the number of deaths related to diseases such as measles and polio. Between 2000 and 2008 measles deaths fell by 78% whilst cases of polio have fallen by around 99%. Aid from the EU is estimated to have helped vaccinate 5 million children against measles.

One organisation that is a good example of a vehicle for effective aid is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. GAVI has been commended for the ‘value for money’ and efficacy of its work in this area.

So, how did Bill Gates answer my question?

He responded by saying that together UNICEF and GAVI have made much progress on vaccines and immunisation in developing countries and are key organisations by which vaccines and immunisation programmes can be rolled out. 

However, following a big push in the 1980s, pressure to ensure that all children are immunised against vaccine preventable diseases has plateaued . Demographically 20% of children are still missing as a result of lack of access.

We need to re-dedicate ourselves to ensuring equitable coverage of vaccines everywhere in the world.

You can view Bill Gates’ response in full below. His answer made it clear to me that we must work together to push the discussion of vaccinations and immunisation back up the  EU’s aid agenda.