I know that a number of you, including me, see the dominance of Microsoft over the world business with a bad eye; unfair and heavy handed. To a large extent, I abhor the idea that the winner takes all and leaves the losers will absolutely nothing. Microsoft continues to cream the market using its dominant position in spite of drastic legislation to balance the effect of its “unfair” control over the world’ scene. Last week again, we saw on the news that the EC imposed yet another heavy fine on Microsoft which answered back by filing some other legal proceedings.

Every cloud has a silvery lining. The Microsoft situation to a large degree accelerated the development of Linux which itself gave the invention of a new collaborative way of operating with the different “wikis”.

Another of the silver lining in the case of Bill Gates over rich situation would be: had it not been the world record of wealth accumulated by Bill would we have seen the vast amount of money deployed on eradicating diseases in very poor countries? The formation of a new type of Global alliance to fight the world’s calamity has now been created. A new formula respecting all parties’ dignity binds together governments from the rich countries, NGO s, the private funds, and the world’s largest drug manufacturers, the low cost drug manufacturers in the third world countries and the poor countries to produce at very low cost vaccines to free the world from nasty diseases. In a way, we have found the solution to the dilemma of payment of hefty royalties due to the drug companies and the disposal and use of cures for the less fortunate of the world. GAVI has paved the way.

Q: What is Gavi?

The Global Alliance was set up in 1999 with a donation of $750m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is a non-profit making body with links to United Nation’s Children’s Fund (Unicef), and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as governments of developing and industrialised countries, vaccine manufacturers, research groups and other organisations providing health aid to countries.

It says its mission is to “focus on those areas where no one partner can work effectively alone and to add value to what partners are already doing”.

In addition to Norway, other countries including Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US, as well as private donors have given funding to Gavi.

The pharmaceutical industry has been very involved since the beginning of Gavi. They have helped to improve the accuracy of demand forecasts for vaccines, and provide credible evidence of a market for vaccines in low-income countries.

A lack of this kind of evidence had previously meant the industry had to some degree turned away from these lower-priced traditional vaccines to more expensive newer ones targeted mainly at developed countries.

Q: Why was it set up?

In 2002, around 10.5 million children aged five or under died. Of these, around 1.4 million died from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Data for 2003 showed 27 million children did not receive any vaccinations in their first year of life.

Q: What does it do?

Gavi created the Vaccine Fund to provide funding to countries in the developing world to fund the purchase of vaccines and to provide the infrastructure to distribute them.

It has given grants to 70 of the world’s poorest countries – those with a Gross National Income (GNI) of less than $1,000 (£532) a year.

By December 2004, it had raised around $1.3m and distributed over $530m.

Q: What has this achieved?

Gavi claims to have ensured an additional four million children in developing countries received routine childhood immunisations, such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) that they would otherwise not have had access to.

In addition, it says 42 million were immunised against hepatitis B, five million against Hib and over three million against yellow fever.

The WHO estimates this could have prevented 670,000 premature deaths in children born between 2001 and 2003.

On average, it costs $ 20 (including delivery costs) to fully immunise a child against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, measles and tuberculosis.

Q: What do other health bodies think of Gavi?

When it was launched in 2000, the then Director-General of the WHO, Dr Gro-Harlem Brundtland, said: “Gavi is a true partnership between public and private sectors.

“It is one based on enlightened self-interest, but it is also one that recognises the moral responsibility we all have for a world where all children receive a basic chance of survival and health.”

A report from Save the Children in 2002 raised concerns of a conflict of interest for representatives of the pharmaceutical industry involved in Gavi, because their companies could be making products which Gavi would distribute.

But the WHO and International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association said an initiative such as Gavi needed representatives of the industry among its leadership.


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