On the first World Pneumonia Day, spare a thought for the mothers and fathers of the five thousand children who will be killed today by pneumonia.
Pause for a moment in silent thanks to the staff of the GAVI Alliance which works to get immunisation to children in developing countries.
If you pay taxes in Italy, the UK, Canada, Norway, or Russia, pat yourself on the back. Your government has contributed to a market-based financing mechanism called the Advance Market Commitment, or AMC. This provides an incentive for vaccine makers to produce suitable vaccines in the necessary quantities at an affordable price for developing countries. The result is that GAVI has been able to reduce the current price of existing pneumococcal vaccines by up to 90%.
In the past, it often took 15 or 20 years before vaccines developed for rich countries were sold at affordable prices in developing countries. Because of the Advance Market Commitment, four vaccine suppliers are now offering pneumo vaccines, specifically developed for the the developing world at affordable prices.
This is aid at its best: creating financial incentives for companies to bring their expertise and innovation to the table to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Donors only pay for vaccines that actually get delivered and used. This money will save the lives of about seven million children over the next 20 years.
We owe a debt to Michael Kremer and Rachel Glennerster for the idea, to the Center for Global Development (especially Ruth Levine) for developing a practical proposal, to Carlos Monticelli from the Italian Finance Ministry who steered a group of donors to make it happen, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for paying for background research, to Orin Levine, Gargee Ghosh, Amy Batson, John Hurvitz, Andrew Jones, Susan McAdams, and many others for making it happen.
And to the countless bureaucrats and nay-sayers who thought it could never happen: yah-booh-sucks.