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Monday, December 4, 2023

An African at the helm of the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI)

Nigerian-born Dr Muhammad Ali Pate has just been appointed CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, founded to address a market failure and ensure a secure supply of vaccines at affordable prices for developing countries. Increasing immunization rates have helped to halve child mortality, averting around 16.2 million deaths, and dramatically reduced the incidence of deadly and debilitating infectious diseases. Currently a professor at Havard, Dr. Pate will officially take up his new post on August 3.

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, has announced the appointment of Dr Muhammad Ali Pate as its new Chief Executive Officer. A recognized leader in the field of global health, with experience at both national and international levels, the Nigerian physician will continue the work of supporting routine immunization, epidemic response and access to Covid-19 vaccinations worldwide.

Long recruitment process

Dr Muhammad Ali Pate was selected following a year-long recruitment process overseen by the Chairman of Gavi's Board of Directors, Professor José Manuel Baroso. A physician trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases, with an MBA from Duke University in the USA, Dr Pate served as Nigeria's Minister of State for Health between 2011 and 2013. In this capacity, he led a flagship initiative to revive routine vaccinations and primary healthcare, chaired a presidential task force to eradicate polio and introduced new vaccines to the country.

While Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility (2019 and 2021), Dr. Pate led the WB's $18 billion Covid-19 global health response. He currently holds the Julio Frenk Chair in Public Health Leadership at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, and has served on a number of health-focused boards and panels in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors over the course of his career.

Dr. Pate, whose appointment was confirmed at an extraordinary meeting of the Alliance's Board of Directors, said: "It is a great honor for me to join Gavi as its new CEO. Gavi is one of the organizations with the greatest impact on global health, a testament to the excellent work of the Alliance's partners and Secretariat staff. It will be my privilege to lead it, building on the work of Dr. Seth Berkley, and to continue to help countries scale up essential routine immunization programs, reach more children without a dose, expand access to new vaccines, transform primary health care systems and contribute to the fight against epidemics and future pandemics."

History of Gavi

At the end of the 1990s, progress in international immunization programs was stagnating. More than 30 million children in developing countries were not fully immunized against killer diseases, and many more had yet to receive a single vaccine. At the heart of the challenge was a serious market failure - while powerful new vaccines were becoming available, developing countries simply couldn't afford them. In response, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a group of founding partners devised a solution to encourage manufacturers to lower the price of vaccines for the poorest countries. In exchange, they could expect significant and predictable long-term demand from these countries. In 2000, this revolutionary idea became the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, now known as Gavi: the Vaccine Alliance.

Impressive results

In the face of global challenges such as climate change, urbanization, migration, fragility and conflict, Gavi has helped countries increase their immunization coverage and improve their health systems. The Alliance's impact draws on the strengths of its main partners, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This plays an essential role in strengthening primary healthcare. Today, the Alliance vaccinates nearly half the world's children. Thanks to the organization's efforts, the cost of full immunization for a child - including the 11 vaccines recommended by the WHO - now costs $28 in Gavi-supported countries, compared with around $1,300 in the United States.

A highly committed American CEO

At the helm of Gavi since 2011, current CEO Dr. Seth Berkley has made a major contribution to the Alliance's successes. A pioneer in global public health for over 35 years, the American medical epidemiologist is one of the founders of the global Covax mechanism, co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and to ensure fair and equitable access for all countries worldwide. This program provided 146 countries with access to vaccines during the pandemic. Dr. Pate will take over on August 3.