Dr Sharmin Zahan, Senior Program Manager for Health at BRAC, Bangladesh shares her thoughts on the UK’s pledge to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Last week, 27 November 2014, the International Development Secretary of State, Justine Greening MP, reaffirmed the UK’s position as leader in global immunisation with the announcement of up to £1 billion to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for 2016-2020. The UK has been a long-standing supporter of Gavi since it was established in 2000. Previous contributions from the UK to Gavi have already saved millions of lives and led to significant reductions in child deaths across developing countries. In addition to existing commitments during this period, UK taxpayers are helping to immunise an additional 76 million children and save 1.4 million lives.


The UK’s announcement prompted my memory of the Immunisation Advocacy Tour I attended in London earlier this year. It was not too long ago, just after World Immunisation Week in April 2014, that I visited the UK Parliament as part of an Advocacy Tour arranged by RESULTS UK. The purpose of my visit was to raise awareness among decision-makers and the public about the urgent need to ensure all children receive vaccines and the important role of Gavi in achieving this effort. I had the opportunity to meet DFID Senior Health Advisor Chris Lewis to discuss the UK’s critical role in funding Gavi. In parliament, I met with Martin Horwood, MP, Michael Connarty, MP, Lord Avebury, Jim Dobin, MP and Annette Brook, MP, in one-to-one meetings alongside RESULTS UK colleagues. Later in the week, I also had the opportunity to meet with Barroness Suttie and Nic Dakin MP over an informal dinner with RESULTS UK collegues in Camden, North London.

During these meetings, I was heartened to hear of all the MPs particular interest in hearing about Gavi’s impact on the ground in countries which receive Gavi funding, and the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in delivering immunisation activities. I felt privileged, particularly with the fact that Bangladesh has made enormous progress in immunisation in last two decades, in part due to significant funding from Gavi. Bangladesh is a classic example where immunisation is implemented through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). However, CSOs like BRAC’s community mobilisation for immunisation programme, run through community health workers, plays a critical role in ensuring greater coverage and equity of access to vaccines. In addition to support through Gavi, DFID provides a large amount of funding to BRAC through a strategic partnership approach, to implement health and other development programmes that ultimately impact on poverty reduction.

My short tour to London ended with a hope that the UK Government will remain a leading supporter to Gavi, as they have done since its establishment. During the last period, the UK contributed a third of Gavi’s total funding, with a pledge of £814 million in 2011 for the following 5 years. It therefore brought me immense pleasure to hear about the UK’s announcement of up to £1 billion for Gavi last week, especially when thinking about the millions of lives that will be saved over the next 5 years, both in Bangladesh and around the world.

I hope the UK’s contribution will be inspiration for other donors who are deliberating their contributions to Gavi at the moment. As donors prepare to gather in Berlin, Germany on January 27th 2015, it is time for all donors to follow in the steps of the UK and step up to the challenge to ensure Gavi is fully funded for the 2016-2020 period. If fully funded, Gavi will support countries to immunise an additional 300 million children over 5 years, saving up to 6 million lives – I personally can’t think of a better investment.