GENEVA, May 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, called on government leaders to increase their investments in vaccines and to hold themselves accountable for extending the benefits of vaccines to every child.

To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, please click:

(Photo: )

In a keynote address at the 64th World Health Assembly, an annual gathering of health ministers and global health leaders, Gates laid out his vision for the impact that broadening access to vaccines can have on the world. "Strong immunization systems will put an end to polio and help us reach all children with five to six new vaccines," Gates said. "We can save four million lives by 2015, and 10 million lives by 2020."

Gates is more optimistic than ever about the impact of vaccines. "Vaccines are inexpensive, they are easy to deliver, and they are proven to protect children from disease," he declared.

Recognizing that leadership is essential to achieving his vision, Gates announced that starting in 2012, his foundation would bestow an award on an individual or organization that has made a uniquely innovative contribution to the Decade of Vaccines. The innovation could be in the science, the delivery, or the financing of vaccines.

"The best immunization systems work because leaders hold themselves accountable for results," he said. "Leaders diagnose weaknesses, innovate to address them, and spread the best ideas."

Gates cited leaders in India and Nigeria who are responsible for increasing immunization rates in their states, and praised the success of the new Meningitis A vaccine that was rolled out in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger last December, to emphasize the importance of commitments to immunization.

Gates also called on pharmaceutical manufacturers to commit to making sure vaccines are affordable for poor countries.

"I believe we have the opportunity to make a new future in which global health is the cornerstone of global prosperity," he said.

Achieving his vision for the next decade would depend on doing difficult, necessary things.

Specifically, Gates called on: - Donor countries to increase their investment in vaccines and immunization, even though they are coping with budget crises. He cited the GAVI Alliance pledging meeting in London on June 13 as an opportunity to show their support. - Pharmaceutical companies to make sure vaccines are affordable for poor countries. Specifically, they must make a commitment to affordable pricing. Gates said he was confident that the combined price of the pentavalent, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines can be cut in half by 2015. - All 193 member states to make vaccines a central focus of their health systems. He said they must pledge to meet vaccine coverage targets of 90 percent at the country level with no district below 80 percent, and ensure that all children have access to existing vaccines and to new ones as they become available.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation