Vaccines save lives and help economies prosper: President Sahle-Work at the Global Vaccine Summit

10 Jun 2020

On 4th June, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson,  hosted the first-ever virtual Global Vaccine Summit, which brought together representatives from 62 countries, including 42 Heads of State and Government, and leaders from global health organisations, the private sector, vaccine manufacturers and civil society organisations, to support Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s work protecting almost half the world’s children against deadly, preventable infectious diseases.

Ethiopia’s President, H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, addressed the Summit.

Opening the Summit, PM Boris Johnson said, “I hope this summit will be the moment when the world comes together to unite humanity in the fight against disease.”

“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 over the next five years.”

“I urge you to join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes,” the PM said.

In her address, President Sahle-Work thanked the UK government for hosting the summit, which is even more important this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our collective efforts to develop and deploy vaccines rapidly, which are accessible to all, is of paramount importance,” she said.

“As the largest African investment in the Gavi portfolio, support equivalent to more than $1.1 billion has been provided to Ethiopia to prevent the deaths of millions of children from infectious diseases. This has boosted our immunisation coverage from 30% in 2000, to 72% today,” the President said, adding that, “Since 2018, 1.1 million girls have been spared the scourge of cervical cancer due to the introduction of the HPV vaccine.”

“In order to strengthen our health systems, we have applied for $300 million of GAVI’s support for systematic disease prevention against epidemics.”

“In Ethiopia, we have reduced the number of unimmunised children by 50% since 2000, while more needs to be done to reach more than one million children who are not receiving vaccines.”

In concluding remarks, President Sahle-Work outlined Ethiopia’s commitment to:

  • Work to ensure equity and quality in providing access to health services for all
  • Driving up the coverage across the country of DTP-containing vaccine to 90%
  • The continuation of essential health services, especially immunisation activities, despite the current demands of Ethiopia’s COVID-19 response
  • Increasing the government’s expenditure for health every year, with immunisation exceeding 40% of the total health budget
  • Continuing to meet Ethiopia’s co-financing obligation over Gavi’s next strategic period

At the conclusion of the summit, $8.8 billion was pledged for Gavi, far exceeding the target of $7.4 billion. This will help immunise 300 million more children in lower-income countries by the end of 2025. It will also support health systems to withstand the impact of coronavirus and maintain the infrastructure necessary to roll out a future COVID-19 vaccine on a global scale.

“Britain has been honoured to host this summit today,” said Boris Johnson. “You can count on our full contribution as together we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetime – the triumph of humanity over disease, now and for the generations that follow. As we make the choice today to unite and forge a path of global co-operation, let us also renew our collective resolve to find the vaccine that can defeat coronavirus.”

The Summit also saw the launch of the Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines, a new innovative financing instrument to provide access to COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries, the first building block towards a global mechanism to ensure equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines.

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