Bill Gates Gives $10B to Vaccines for Poor

Microsoft founder Bill Gates looks on during a panel discussion on "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals", at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
AP Photo/Michel Euler
Last Updated 8:55 a.m. ET

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda say their foundation will donate $10 billion over the next decade to research new vaccines and bring them to the world's poorest countries.

Gates spoke during a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos about how to better target global development aid.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," he said in a statement, adding, "Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."

The announcement marks a doubling of the Gates Foundation's first investment in vaccines 10 years ago, and Melinda Gates spoke of the success in increasing immunization rates in developing countries since then.

For example, over the last nine years, immunization rates for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (or DTP3) has increased from 66% to 79%. "That means more children who are staying alive because of these basic vaccines," she said.

Polio which used to be in 125 countries is now endemic in only four (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan). "We are on the verge of being able to actually eradicate polio from the globe," she said.

Melinda Gates predicted the delivery of vaccines for rotovirus or diarrheal disease (which kills half a million children each year) and pneumococcal disease (which affects two million children each year) will improve.

By combining the Foundation's contribution with those from partner organizations and countries, she said, "we will be able to prevent the deaths . . . of over 8 million children in the next nine years."

She also predicted a malaria vaccine would be found "absolutely within our lifetime."

Other discussions dominating the discussions Friday at the Swiss meeting included fighting global warming and protecting the environment - just one month after U.N. climate change talks ended without a binding deal on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose country is holding the next U.N. climate conference at the end of the year, was laying out his ideas in a session exploring what is next for climate talks. Renault-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, who has championed electric cars, was also on hand.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told The Associated Press that recent scandals over climate data have not discredited the view that global warming exists and must be countered.

"What's happened, it's unfortunate, it's bad, it's wrong, but I don't think it has damaged the basic science," he said.

Global warming skeptics have been reinvigorated since a U.N. report warning that Himalayan glaciers could be gone by 2035 turned out to be off by hundreds of years because of a typo - the actual year was 2350 - and by stolen e-mails from the University of East Anglia's climate science unit.

"Concluding that the Himalayan glaciers are going to disappear later is like being happy about the fact that the Titanic is sinking more slowly than we had originally feared, even though it's still going to sink," de Boer said.

De Boer said he was "depressed" after the climate talks in Copenhagen failed to produce a binding accord to cut global carbon emissions and pay poor countries to deal with higher sea levels. But he said it was "feasible" to get all countries on board for an accord in Mexico by the end of 2010.

A key part of the debate, however, is how progress can be made that is not just environmentally effective but also won't break the bank.

De Boer insisted that climate change was not "off the agenda" of the world after the failure of Copenhagen. He expressed confidence that the business leaders at Davos, who are starting to enjoy an economic recovery after a rough couple of years, would invest anew in renewable energy.

"Energy sector investments that were put on hold because of the crisis are beginning to be made again and I think people will take future climate change policy into account," he said.

For more info:
World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (01.27-31)
Global Polio Eradication Initiative
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Millennium Development Goals (UNICEF)