Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the event held by UNICEF UK on Wednesday 26 April at the Thames Pavilion due to pre-existing commitments, however, I can assure you that I share the UK’s longstanding commitment to improving the reach and equity of routine childhood vaccinations and that I am following all developments, including the ongoing efforts of Ministers and British officials towards the above end, very closely.
Despite decades of progress in childhood immunisation, our collective efforts are falling short. Put simply, we are not meeting our goal to vaccinate every child and when we fail to meet this criterion, we risk the lives and health of our children – as well as our societies’ growth and development. It is for these reasons that HM Government (HMG) is committed to working with international partners to vaccinate the children of today.
The importance of vaccinating today's children was highlighted in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)'s 'Ending Preventable Deaths' Approach Paper and 'Health Systems Strengthening for Global Health Security' Paper, published in December 2021. These papers outlined the UK’s approach to improving maternal and child health through four pillars: strengthening health systems, reducing inequality, tackling the wider determinants of health, and research and innovation. Cutting across all these pillars is the UK’s commitment to improve the reach and equity of routine childhood vaccinations.
I, therefore, welcome that the UK has been the largest donor of Gavi, a vaccine alliance, since its inception in 2000, playing a leading role in immunising a whole generation – over 981 million children – saving over 16.2 million lives through equitable access to vaccines and helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries over the past two decades.
Going forward, I am encouraged that HMG remains committed to a high-level of funding for the immunisation of children, as demonstrated by its £1.65 billion commitment to Gavi throughout 2021 - 2025. This funding will support Gavi to vaccinate 300 million children, saving 7 - 8 million lives through 2021 - 25.
Indeed, investing in global health is a priority for UK development policy. I am assured the UK will continue to champion the invaluable contribution of vaccines in saving lives and protecting global health.