Bill and Melinda Gates pledged some $10 billion over the next decade to help research and deliver vaccines to children around the world, making the announcement at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Bill Gates, according to a release issued by the Gates Foundation on Jan. 29. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."
The Gates Foundation is estimating that the money could potentially save 8.7 million children's lives, based on a model developed by a group led by the Institute of International Programs at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In breaking down that model, the Foundation suggested that some 7.6 million children under the age of 5 would be saved between 2010 and 2019, thanks to funds being used to scale coverage of vaccines in developing countries to 90 percent; additionally, another 1.1 million children would potentially be saved by the introduction of a malaria vaccine in 2014.
That malaria vaccine is currently in late-stage trials. The Foundation said that more lives could be saved if other vaccines are developed and introduced within the next few years, including ones for pneumonia and severe diarrhea. A vaccine to prevent meningitis outbreaks in Africa could be introduced into the field sometime in 2010.
The Gates Foundation has been pursuing several different avenues of charitable giving over the past few years, in the process helping change Gates' reputation from that of an ultra-competitive businessman to a super-philanthropist. The $34 billion foundation's second annual letter, released on Jan. 25, suggested that long-term goals would include not only vaccine-development and disease-battling in developing countries, but also increasing agricultural productivity and encouraging students and educators both in the United States and globally.
"Although innovation is unpredictable," Gates wrote in that letter, "there is a lot that governments, private companies and foundations can do to accelerate it. Rich governments need to spend more on research and development, for instance, and we need better measurement systems in health and education to determine what works."
Gates recently launched an official Twitter feed, and restarted his Facebook page, as a means of promoting the Gates Notes, a Website devoted to his thoughts on international and health issues.