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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 01/29/2010

Gates Foundation announces massive vaccine commitment


A decade ago at Davos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda launched a global campaign to deliver vaccines and immunizations to fight disease in the developing world. On Friday at Davos, they turbocharged the effort, committing $10 billion over the next 10 years to the cause.

Bill Gates
AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella

The commitment appears to be the largest single non-governmental commitment ever given. Two of the previous biggest grants, each for $750 million, were given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, part of $4.5 billion it had spent on vaccines.

“We're essentially redoubling our commitment," Bill Gates said at a press conference, calling the fresh funding commitment "a great milestone."

He said the world "must make this the decade of vaccines.”

Gates used the forum, where government and business leaders gather, to urge greater support from both sectors. "We can have a lot of impact and a lot of success," working together, he said. He added that the financial and economic crisis of 2008 had caused some governments to slow increases in spending, but he urged them to do more.

The Gates Foundation estimated that by widening the distribution of vaccines in developing countries to 90 percent coverage, the effort could prevent the deaths of 7.6 million children under 5 by 2019. The foundation also projected that an additional 1.1 million children could be saved with the rapid introduction of a malaria vaccine beginning in 2014.

Melinda Gates, appearing with her husband, said vaccinations and immunizations have made a huge impact on disease eradication in the last decade.

"The vaccine pipeline is very robust," she said, meaning that more are being developed. "We will have a malaria vaccine in our lifetime." (Melinda Gates is a director of the Washington Post Co.)

The announcement -- perhaps the biggest actual news to emerge from the usual Davos rush of speeches, panels and soirees -- was made at a crowded press conference in a subterranean conference room below the main Forum hall.

This is the biggest single commitment that the Gates Foundation has ever announced. For comparison, the next-largest global health announcement was at Davos in 2006, when the Gateses committed more than $900 million over 10 years for the fight against turbuclosis. The next-largest pledge overall was back in 1999, when they gave $1 billion to the United Negro College Fund.

By  | January 29, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
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If Gates was smart enough to put the money into developing human-like artificial intelligence instead of this piecemeal nonsense, we'd have all the vaccines we need as a side effect.

Gates is in a unique position to make this happen, but just as happened with the internet, he has no vision for the future - no significant imagination.

Posted by: ian807 | January 29, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

What does human-like artificial intelligence have to do with vaccines? AI is a dangerous path for science to go down. I applaud the Gates' humanitarian efforts. It is a shining example to all wealthy individuals that having so much money implies social obligations to do something for the betterment of mankind.

Posted by: kentuckywoman2 | January 29, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Gates has given billions, what is Steve Jobs doing with all his money?

Posted by: momj47 | January 29, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

ian, what are you talking about? Human like AI is decades away; The brain operates with a power of 100 petaflops (Nick Bostrom of Yale). Let IBM, Intel, AMD, the national labs, and universities worry about that.

$1 billion to the United Negro College Fund
$10 billion in vaccines in 10 years

The Gate's generosity should be displayed as an example for all upper class citizens!

Email Obama: Nominate the Gates for the Presidental Metal of Freedom!
Nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Posted by: HokiePokie | January 29, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I need you to SHUT you mouth. You dare to criticize Bill Gates for choosing to use his moeny to help others he cares about?. If not for the internet, people like you would never have the chance to utter a word. How dare criticize some one for using their personal money to help others.I am not sure you can even help your neighbor pull is broken care from the garage let alone give some other person money. Moron
Does Bill Gates have the responsibility of choosing what happens in your future. You haave a brian just like he has one. Use it just like he is using his.

Posted by: nditebeck | January 29, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Steve Jobs had the right to choose what he does with his money. He is not compelled to do what Gates is doing.

Posted by: nditebeck | January 29, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

If you recall, Bill Gates took A LOT of heat for not being a generous humanitarian, and he changed his evil ways. Why should Steve Jobs get a pass.

Posted by: momj47 | January 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, expect Gates to be hit by class action law suits just like everyone else associated with vaccines. Mr Gates might be able to conquer viruses, bacteria, germs and diseases, but the Trial Lawyers will win out.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 29, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Did Bill Gates ever hear of the expression "charity begins at home"? Think of how much of a difference it could make in American cities if this money were spent on low-cost, affordable housing for the working poor. Or funding Head Start up into elementary school. Or building and staffing health clinics in poor neighborhoods. Somehow, these rich philanthropists always find billions to spend overseas, but none at home, including Clinton- who milked these communities for votes while he was in office but turns his back on them now when they could really use his help.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 29, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Goddamn those evil, greedy capitalists! How DARE they profiteer on the backs of the poor and middle-class!! Let's tax them to oblivion, so we can spend their money on making a difference in the lives of the poor! Won't SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN??????

Posted by: LNER4472 | January 29, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Bill and Melinda Gates would do well to read "Algeria: The Realities" by the French ethnographer, Germaine Tillion.

Posted by: dino_saurus | January 29, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I don't quite understand the "charity begins at home" argument. Not to trivialize the problems many Americans are facing, but most of Gates' aid goes to people in a far graver situation dealing with matters of, literally, life and death - epedemics, starvation, etc. It's an emergency on a massive scale, and I find it commendable that the Gates's are addressing this.

It's not mutually exclusive either - Gates and many others are contributing within the U.S. as well. Also, national welfare has a lot to do with government policies, and I'd say the situation for low-income Americans is in no small part due to the Bush administration, which (consciously) worsened things quite significantly. A lot of initiatives on health care, education, infrastructure, etc. would be necessary, but they'd need solid support, and many still seem very hesitant or even hostile to this, deeming it "socialist"..

Posted by: hhedstrom1 | January 29, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what he has planned for all of Warren B's money?

Posted by: ozpunk | January 29, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Re: "Did Bill Gates ever hear of the expression "charity begins at home"?

The Gates Foundation spends massive amounts of money in the US, too, mainly on education for low-income students. Do your research before criticizing, look at their website.

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Posted by: setrjhytkytjefthtjhyju | January 29, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

I stand corrected on the spending for low-income students in the US, and the Gates Foundation's work is commendable in this regard. However, I am not thrilled about supporting the historically black colleges. Although there are a few exceptions like Morehouse and to a lesser extent Howard, many are second-rate schools and many of their students would be better off attending other state colleges instead. After all, they're going to have to work in an integrated society, why not attend college in one as well?

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 29, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

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