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Commentary

The Gates Vaccinations
Washington Post, 1-25-05

The Post points out that aid from rich nations to poor nations is subject to many confounding factors; for instance, money to buy school textbooks is useless if there are no teachers to teach, or if parents send their children to work in the fields instead of going to class.

However, vaccination programs avoid these conundrums: once a vaccination is given, the effect is locked in. Consequently, “vaccinations offer some of the clearest development wins, and [explains] why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is right to devote huge resources to them.” The resources are indeed massive: to date, the Gates Foundation has devoted to about $1.5 billion to providing vaccines for poor nations, a sum so massive it has changed the financial incentives for the vaccine industry. “Before, the industry had little reason to manufacture vaccines for which there might be no market; after, a multimillion-dollar pot of cash hung like a carrot in front of drug companies.”

Thanks to market incentives like these, companies are doing more research on vaccines that disproportionately effect poor nations. The example the Gates Foundation is setting is commendable and effective and other donors should follow their lead.



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