Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Governments, Bill Gates back global vaccination drive

THE GUARDIAN , London

A global immunization campaign to save the lives of up to 3 million children a year in the developing world will be launched next year as the result of a US$4 billion-a-year vaccination project backed by the UK, France and Bill Gates, the multibillionaire founder of Microsoft.

Government-backed bonds will be floated on financial markets to fund a mass immunization program designed to tackle easily preventable diseases.

UK Treasury sources said the proposal was at an advanced stage and would be unveiled in the first half of 2005, when the UK intends to make Africa the focal point of its presidency of the G8 industrial countries.

The UK was approached by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) to see if it would back a plan to frontload extra cash into health programs.

British finance minister Gordon Brown believes the plan could speed up the flow of drugs to tackle diseases such as tetanus, measles, polio, diphtheria, whoop-ing cough, hepatitis B, yellow fever and gastroenteritis.

He also sees the initiative as a pilot for his proposed International Finance Facility, a plan to double global aid to US$100 billion a year through the sale of bonds.

Treasury officials said Brown had discussed the project with Gates, who has pledged part of his personal fortune to the immunization campaign. The British and French governments, with the World Bank, GAVI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are working out the final details.

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