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New funding will allow countries to secure sustainable vaccine supplies and reach children more quickly

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Initiative to support countries' vaccine supply through bridge financing receives financial boost from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

COPENHAGEN, 13 December 2017 – UNICEF announced today that funding for its Vaccine Independence Initiative (VII), a mechanism to help countries secure a sustainable supply of life-saving vaccines, has more than doubled in the past year, increasing from $15 million to $35 million.

The increase was made possible especially by a $15 million financial guarantee from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, adding to a VII capital base that also includes recent contributions from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the United States Fund for UNICEF.

Over 60 low-income countries currently benefit from Gavi support to purchase life-saving vaccines. As countries’ economies grow and transition away from Gavi support, the VII gives them access to short-term bridge “loans” so that they can purchase vaccines while waiting for the release of national budget funds. In addition, it provides countries assistance to strengthen the planning and budgeting processes to manage their essential supplies procurement moving forward.

VII is one tool to help countries minimize vaccine stock-outs and ensure more children receive vaccines on time. Since 2016, it has helped provide an estimated 91 million doses to children in 23 countries faster than would have otherwise been possible.

“Financing mechanisms such as the VII are an essential part of a vaccine supply financing toolkit to improve financial sustainability and ensure supplies are reaching children when they are most needed,” Shanelle Hall, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Field Results, explained. “We look forward to continuing our work supporting countries, together with the Foundation and other donors and partners. It is especially critical now, in light of many countries graduating from donor support, inequities in Middle Income Countries and the broader Sustainable Development Goals agenda.”

“We know from speaking with government leaders around the world that countries transitioning from Gavi support can face some significant short-term budget and technical difficulties securing their own vaccines,” said Dr. Orin Levine, director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The foundation, along other partners in the Gavi Alliance, are committed to helping countries address these challenges, and the VII is one tool that we have to make sure that children, no matter where they live, are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Vaccines are one of the most effective health interventions in history, and have helped reduce the number of child deaths by more than half since 1990. For every dollar spent on childhood immunizations, countries yield $44 in economic and social benefits. Global immunization coverage for the basic package of vaccines stood at 86 percent in 2016, the highest on record. However, much remains to be done to ensure the sustainability of national vaccination systems and funding, and make essential supplies for children available.

“Tools like the Vaccine Independence Initiative are becoming increasingly important as developing countries invest more and more of their own resources in their vaccine programmes, in this case by creating a stable, predicable vaccine supply,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This new investment will therefore give a welcome boost to countries moving towards self-sufficiency, helping to ensure children don’t go without life-saving vaccines.”

Recent contributions to the VII have been key to support countries who are expanding their national budgets to purchase vaccines, such as Kenya and Chad. Additionally, the recently increased size of VII has allowed the new countries such as Uzbekistan, Cote d’Ivoire, and most recently Tajikistan to sign-up to the mechanism. More countries are in active discussions for new subscriptions. These efforts contribute to providing sustained immunization supplies to an increasing number of newborns in these countries.