New information note: The UK’s work with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

4 Jun 2020

  • New information note from independent aid watchdog looks at the UK’s relationship with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which funds vaccines for almost half the world’s children.
  • Publication coincides with this week’s Global Vaccine Summit, hosted by UK government, to raise funds for Gavi.
  • Information note, which will assist International Development Committee in its scrutiny work, highlights that UK is a significant and influential donor to the organisation.

The UK’s major aid investment in Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is playing a pivotal role in making sure children in the world’s poorest countries are vaccinated against disease – but the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic risks “crowding out” routine immunisation work, according to a new information note from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).

The note, which coincides with today’s virtual Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK government, looks at the UK’s financial and strategic relationship with Gavi – a public-private partnership of national governments, multilateral agencies, and other organisations that funds vaccines for almost half the world’s children.

The UK is the biggest funder of Gavi, and recently announced it would contribute £1.65bn to the 2021-2025 replenishment, including existing pledges made during the previous funding period. The information note has been produced to support the International Development Committee in its scrutiny of the replenishment, and proposes eight lines of enquiry for the committee to take forward.

ICAI Chief Commissioner Dr Tamsyn Barton said: “Scrutinising how the UK works with Gavi, and the benefits of that relationship in tackling preventable diseases across the world, is particularly relevant in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and we are pleased to be able to support the International Development Committee in its work.

“Our lines of enquiry raise important issues for the committee to consider – not least whether the COVID-19 response and donors’ priorities and interests risk detracting from Gavi’s core mission.”

Sub-Committee for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact Chair, Theo Clarke MP, said: “Ahead of Gavi’s replenishment summit today, ICAI’s information note provides useful context on the importance of the UK’s own contribution to the initiative. DFID is a major funder of Gavi, and we should be proud of the life-saving work it is supporting.

“Coronavirus is devastating countries around the world, and poses a particular risk to developing nations that have weaker health systems and communities that are hard to reach. It is alarming that, due to the disruption of the pandemic, mass vaccination campaigns for preventable disease have been suspended, which will no doubt add to the strain on health systems in fragile and conflict-affected states in the future.

“The committee will be considering ICAI’s work on Gavi as part of its inquiry on Humanitarian crises monitoring: impact of coronavirus.”

ICAI’s report, which as a factual information note is not evaluative and does not make any recommendations, provides an overview of Gavi’s work. Since its launch in 2000, the organisation has helped to vaccinate more than 760 million children, preventing more than 13 million deaths.

ICAI notes that the UK’s contributions – amounting to a quarter of the total since Gavi’s inception – mean that the UK has an “influential” role on the Gavi board, enabling the government to promote its strategic priorities. This has led to Gavi making improvements including strengthened investments in fragile and conflict-affected states, and extended immunisation services in hard-to-reach communities.

The report also looks at the case for the UK’s investment in Gavi, with research estimating a return of $54 for every $1 spent. It notes arguments by DFID that helping developing countries in the global fight against epidemic disease will also support the national interest by reducing public health threats to the UK.

However, ICAI’s report echoes Gavi’s warning last week that the COVID-19 pandemic has already had a major impact on the organisation’s core mission, with mass vaccination campaigns suspended, and routine immunisation in most countries disrupted – despite there being a strong public health case for this work continuing. The report highlights that Gavi’s appeal for at least $7.4bn (approximately £6bn) for its next five-year strategy pre-dates the pandemic, and with many donors asking for a COVID-19 response plan to form part of today’s replenishment discussions, the pandemic will “inevitably” compete for resources with Gavi’s planned activities.

ICAI’s proposed lines of enquiry for the International Development Committee raise issues including how DFID can support Gavi in sustaining global momentum for its core mission while ensuring that developing countries gain timely and equitable access to a future COVID-19 vaccine; whether there is the right balance between immunisation campaigns and strengthening national health systems; and whether there are trade-offs if donor countries prioritise their ‘national interest’ when investing in Gavi.

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