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Gates: 'Decade of Vaccines' can save 10 million lives by 2020

Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist hopes to finally rid the world of polio and increase affordable vaccinations for various diseases.

Bill Gates gives keynote address at the 64th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pushing harder than ever for government leaders around the world to increase vaccination investments.

In a keynote address yesterday to the 64th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates spoke for nearly half an hour to health ministers from 193 countries about the importance of "seeking good health care for every human being."

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

A child receiving oral polio vaccine from a house-to-house vaccination team in Africa. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Gates called on the assembly to make this "the Decade of Vaccines," with some basic goals: eradicate polio early in this decade; build a system capable of delivering vaccines to every child; make five or six new vaccines available to all children around the world. With these investments, Gates said, the world "can save 4 million lives by 2015 and 10 million lives by 2020."

Another challenge Gates cited was lowering the cost of antigenic materials, such as pentavalent, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines. The Gates Foundation is working with vaccine manufacturers to cut prices of those inoculations in half by 2016. Lower costs would be beneficial to many countries around the world that are reeling from budget woes.

During the keynote speech, Gates also called on:

· donor countries to increase their investment in vaccines and immunization, even though they're 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--Gates 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.

The Gates Foundation is also set to reward individuals/organizations that make "the most uniquely innovative contribution to the Decade of Vaccines. This could be innovation in the science, delivery, or funding of vaccines," said Gates. The winner will be announced every January in an annual letter.

Read the entire transcript of the "Decade of Vaccines" speech or watch the full 28-minute video of Gates' address (streaming .WMV) to the WHO.