India has committed itself to contributing $4 million over the next four years to GAVI Alliance to immunise children worldwide against life-threatening diseases.

GAVI Alliance is a public-private partnership of members, including the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Speaking to The Hindu, Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, GAVI Alliance, said: “India has become a donor to GAVI for the first time. We have an agreement with the Finance Ministry to donate $4 million over the next four years… That is something we are happy about.”

He added: “India has three roles to play: It has the largest number of unimmunised children in the world; it is our [GAVI’s] largest supplier of vaccines — 55 per cent of our vaccines come out of India— and now it is a donor as well.”

The funding has come at a critical time as GAVI is stepping up its efforts to save children by increasing access to immunisation in the poorest countries, an announcement on its website acknowledges.

With 21 international donors ploughing funds into its kitty, the largest funding for GAVI came from the United Kingdom, followed by the Gates Foundation, and the Norwegian and other governments, including the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany and Japan, Dr. Berkley said.

With this, four of the five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations have become donors of GAVI. India has been receiving support for its immunisation programme from GAVI since 2002.

As a result of the donation, India will be offered some time to engage with the donor constituency, to sit with donors and discuss issues. It allows India to be part of the global dialogue. “We hope India will take advantage of that and we suspect it will,” Dr. Berkley said. “This will not affect our work in the country, or the purchase of vaccines from the country.”

Interestingly, India has only recently agreed to roll out the pentavalent (five in one) vaccine across the country. The pentavalent is among the top vaccines that GAVI continues to be concerned.

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