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UK and Gates Foundation commit to polio eradication

Citing dramatic gains achieved with polio vaccines, Prime Minister David Cameron, Bill and Melinda Gates call on world leaders to finish the job

DAVOS, Switzerland – British Prime Minister David Cameron announced recently that the United Kingdom would double its current contribution to polio eradication.  

Mr Cameron called on other donors to back the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as he announced the UK's commitment that will see an extra 45 million children fully vaccinated against the disease. 

In 20 years, polio cases have been reduced by 99% and the disease is now close to being only the second in history – after smallpox – to be wiped out. In 2010, India and Nigeria – historically the toughest challenges to eradication – cut cases by 95%. However, today polio still exists in more than a dozen countries, crippling and killing children.  

Prime Minister Cameron said: "I passionately believe that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rid the world of the evil of polio. We have the vaccines and the tools to do it. All that's missing is real and sustained political will to see this effort through to the end.

"That's why I'm announcing today that the UK is prepared to fully vaccinate an additional 45 million children against polio, through a doubling of our support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative over the next two years.  

"In return for that commitment, we ask other donors to do their bit, and affected countries to strengthen their routine immunisation programmes. 

"We have come so far in eradicating polio. We are so close to delivering a polio-free world for all our children. Let's finish the job. And let's eradicate polio once-and-for-all."

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed an additional $102 million to support efforts to stamp out the disease. 

"Eliminating the last 1% of polio requires the kind of political leadership shown by the UK government and Prime Minister Cameron today,"Gates said.

"Eradicating polio requires innovative thinking and political will, as well as funding from a range of donors, to support an aggressive program that will get the job done." 

Andrew Mitchell, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development, said: 

"Britain is at the forefront of the fight against polio. We have already provided funding for 1.2 billion doses of polio vaccine for children over the past two years and our increased commitment means many millions more will be protected from this terrible disease. 

"The ultimate goal of full eradication can only be achieved if other countries and organisations play their part and release funds." 

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, which leads the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), joined the Prime Minister and Mr Gates for the announcement. 

"These new investments come at a critical time in the fight against polio," said Dr Chan.

"We have a window of opportunity now, with cases at an all time low. But if there is polio anywhere we are at risk of polio everywhere. Only eradication will ensure that polio does not reemerge as a global threat." 

The new funds from the UK, as well as support announced from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi this week, will help fill a funding gap of $720 million. 

Polio remains endemic in four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – and there were outbreaks of the disease last year in Angola, DRC and Tajikistan. 

The new funding will help the GPEI purchase vaccines and conduct immunisation activities. In the next two years, more than three billion doses of oral polio vaccine will be needed to immunize young children. Funding is also required for activities such as surveillance and technical assistance.

Polio eradication staff are now the single largest source of technical assistance for immunisation in low-income countries. The program will also allocate new funds for emergency response efforts in areas like Republic of Congo, which recently have experienced large outbreaks of the virus. 

Last year at the World Economic Forum, Bill and Melinda Gates called for the next ten years to be the decade of vaccines. The vision is a world ten years from now where the global health community has come together to deliver life-saving vaccines to every child who needs them, and to invest in vaccines that don't yet exist. 

This first year has seen remarkable success:

  • A new meningitis vaccine launched in Burkina Faso
  • GAVI’s Advance Market Commitment mechanism to fund pneumococcal vaccine delivery in Latin America and Africa
  • Unprecedented reductions in polio  in Nigeria (down to 19 cases from 388 in 2009, and India (41 cases vs 741 in 2009)
  • Significant progress in developing a viable malaria vaccine. 

Vaccine partners from across the world are coming together to define a Global Vaccine Action Plan to guide the discovery, development and delivery of lifesaving vaccines over the next decade.

Notes to editors

Subject to two conditions, the UK will double its support to GPEI over the next two years (to £40 million annually) which will help fully vaccinate an additional 45 million children. The two conditions will apply only to the additional £20 million each year.

First, that this additional support is underpinned by increased commitment to strengthen routine immunisation. Routine, country based immunisation programmes are vital to ensuring that polio eradication can be maintained in the future. Countries need to make national health systems capacity a priority now if we expect to maintain eradication in the future.

Second, that our support has the additional effect of leveraging more effort from others in order to broaden and deepen funding through a matching fund basis.  

How will the matching basis work? For every $5 pledged by others from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2012, the UK will increase its support by $1 up to a maximum of the additional £40 million announced.  

The UK’s challenge aims to help GPEI expand the donor base and strengthen sustainable funding options going into the future and creates an opportunity for others to get involved. 

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.

In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr, under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at

For high-resolution still photography and information about the foundation’s work, please visit:

About the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

The US Government, Rotary International, the Government of India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government are the main funders of GPEI.

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