London-based Save the Children has issued a report asserting that the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, an organization heavily funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is doing more to market expensive vaccines than to combat disease in developing countries, BBC News reports.
The report claims that, because drug companies make products that the organization can choose to buy and distribute, the presence of pharmaceutical industry representatives on the GAVI board is a clear conflict of interest. Save the Children is also concerned that by the end of GAVI's five-year mandate, the countries targeted by the initiative may have become dependent on expensive vaccines for less serious diseases. Established in 1999 with a $750 million donation from the Gates Foundation, GAVI works to increase the number of children being vaccinated in poorer parts of the world and to fund research into new vaccines. In addition to the Gates Foundation, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, and several public health and research institutions and national governments are part of the GAVI alliance.
While a spokesman for the Gates Foundation said the issues raised by Save the Children need to be addressed, the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Associations told BBC News that they continue to believe that GAVI benefits from industry representatives on its board.