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Over recent decades successive studies have led researchers and campaigners to claim that vaccination programmes have a highly positive impact in developing countries by simultaneously reducing the health costs that would otherwise be incurred in treating serious illnesses and increasing economic productivity. The latest study to support these claims was published in February 2018 in the journal Health Affairs.

GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the “co-authors” of the Harvard University study, said:

In addition to saving millions of lives, vaccines will help prevent 24 million people in some of the world’s poorest countries from slipping into poverty by 2030, according to a study published today in Health Affairs. The Harvard study […] modelled the health and economic impact of vaccines for ten diseases in 41 developing countries. As well as the economic impact, the study also estimated that vaccines administered between 2016 and 2030 would prevent 36 million deaths.

“Vaccines don’t just save lives, they also have a huge economic impact on families, communities and economies,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “A healthy child is more likely to go to school and become a more productive member of society in later life, while their families can avoid the often crippling healthcare costs that diseases can bring. As this important study shows, this is enough to save millions of people from the misery of extreme poverty. To realise these figures we now need to redouble our efforts to ensure every child, no matter where they’re born, has access to lifesaving vaccines.”

In 2016, almost £116 million of bilateral aid from the UK (that is, aid that goes directly to specific countries or projects rather than to a multilateral organisation) was spent on areas related to vaccinations. This can be broken down by the type of organisation that handled the money as follows.


This shows that the largest recipient of this funding was the World Health Organisation, with £31 million, followed by all universities, research institutes and think-tanks with £30 million.

The UK also provided £81 million of aid funding to multilateral organisations that can be attributed to vaccination-related sectors. This breaks down as follows.


Definition of bilateral and multilateral aid

Although the definition of bilateral aid is that it is intended for a particular country or project, that aid can still be spent by a multilateral organisation – when this happens, it is listed in the official stats as “bilateral through multilateral”, and is included in the bilateral total.

This means that in the first table, the aid listed as going to the WHO is aid given to them specifically for vaccination-related projects (and it is therefore still bilateral); in the second table, the money is aid given to multilateral organisations without a specific purpose in mind, which they have then spent on vaccination-related areas.

Some vaccination-related funding may also be covered under other sectors; for example, in the same period, £208 million of multilateral aid funding was spent on basic health care, and £117 million on humanitarian relief assistance and services.


GAVI, which is an international organisation that brings together the public and private sectors “with the goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries”, received a total of £214 million of UK aid in 2016. Some of this funding will have been included in the above tables; the remainder likely could not be attributed specifically to any of the vaccination-related sectors.

According to the UK Government’s ‘development tracker’ website:

Over the 2016 to 2020, Gavi will fully deliver the UK target to immunise 76 million children and save 1.4 million lives. Gavi targets reaching those in hard to reach areas, the poorest, and the most marginalised. Gavi has a major global market shaping role for vaccines, negotiating lower prices for low-income countries, and incentivising new vaccines such as for Ebola and Malaria.

A substantial amount of UK aid goes to the UK Vaccine Network, which “brings together industry, academia and relevant funding bodies to make targeted investments in specific vaccines and vaccine technology for infectious diseases with the potential to cause an epidemic.”

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