#National News

UK Prime Minister: Humanity must unite in fight against disease

Jun 5, 2020, 12:36 PM

June 4th: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday opened the UK-hosted Global Vaccine Summit and urged nations to pledge funding for vaccinations to save millions of lives in the poorest countries and protect the world from future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Representatives of over 50 countries, including at least 35 heads of state or government, as well as leaders of private sector organisations and civil society, are expected to raise funds for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The summit was aimed at raising at least $7.4 billion (approx. £6 billion) for Gavi to immunize a further 300 million children in the world’s poorest countries by 2025.

This vital funding will not only protect children from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles and save up to 8 million lives, but will also help ensure our global recovery from coronavirus.

By vaccinating millions of children against these other deadly diseases, we are protecting healthcare systems in the world’s poorest countries so they can cope with rising coronavirus cases.

Health experts have warned that if the virus is left to spread in developing countries, this could lead to future waves of infection reaching the UK.

Addressing attendees as he opens today’s summit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say:

“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 endeavor of our lifetimes.”

People who are vaccinated protect themselves and the rest of the population by lowering the spread and risk of infection. When children are immunized against measles, typhoid and polio, it prevents outbreaks of these infectious diseases at a time when many countries are struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

As the world focuses on tackling coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi have warned that the pandemic is disrupting routine immunization, affecting approximately 80 million children under the age of 1 across 68 countries.

The Prime Minister will also be joined by Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board.

The UK is the largest supporter of Gavi to date, with International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan recently announcing the UK’s £1.65 billion pledge - funding which will immunize up to 75 million children.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who will also take part in today’s summit, said: “The world is quite rightly focusing on responding to the invisible killer that is coronavirus. But we cannot allow this pandemic to disrupt routine immunization in some of the world’s poorest countries and cause other deadly diseases to spread across the globe. We know vaccines work, which is why at today’s summit we need others to step up and pledge funds to Gavi, so it can continue to save the lives of millions of children and protect everyone from infectious diseases.”

At the summit the Presidents of Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Bangladesh will explain how Gavi’s support has helped save lives in their countries and strengthened the resilience of their healthcare systems against major disease outbreaks.

Health workers will speak about their experiences on the frontline, such as immunizing people in the Democratic Republic of Congo against Ebola.

Chief executive officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr Seth Berkley said; “Over the past two decades we have witnessed incredible progress boosting vaccine coverage in the world’s poorest countries: more children in more countries are now protected against more diseases than at any point in history.

However, these historic advances in global health are now at risk of unravelling as COVID-19 causes unprecedented disruption to vaccine programmes worldwide. We face the very real prospect of a global resurgence of diseases like measles, polio and yellow fever, which would put us all at risk. That’s why today’s Global Vaccine Summit is so important, bringing together leaders from around the world – led by the UK – to build global health security and keep us all safe from further outbreaks.”

Gavi, with UK support is addressing the immediate needs triggered by coronavirus, including providing essential medical supplies and helping to increase testing and surveillance of the disease.

As part of the global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, the UK is also the single largest donor of any country to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations’ (CEPI) urgent appeal.

If a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is developed, Gavi will have a role in its delivery around the world. Global access will ensure a collective international recovery and reduce the risk of future waves of infection, which could come to the UK.

Notes to editors:

  • The Global Vaccine Summit, hosted by the UK Government, will take place Thursday 4 June from 13:00 to 16:30 (BST, UK Time). Follow live on www.gavi.org.
  • Register for the Global Vaccine Summit Press Conference, 17:00 – 17:45 (BST, UK Time) by emailing media@gavi.org.
  • A broadcast quality feed will also be available for the live relay of the Global Vaccine Summit. The satellite details will be published here. The material will be available for download in broadcast, radio or social media ready quality here.
  • The Prime Minister will open the summit with an address to the delegates and is expected to close the event with a keynote speech, alongside Bill Gates and Gavi’s Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
  • The UK’s Vaccine Taskforce will build on the UK’s research and development expertise to support international efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine.
  • International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced the UK’s £1.65bn pledge to Gavi - the equivalent of £300m a year over the next 5 years – on the 29th April.
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