Bill Gates: polio, malaria and Australia's aid budget

Tracy Parish

29 May, 2013

Malaria nets have saved lives but a vaccine is still needed

The current high-profile visit to Australia by leading philanthropist, Bill Gates has coincided with the announcement by the Federal Government of an $80 million boost to fight polio.

The new four-year funding brings Australia’s total contribution for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to AUD$130 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is contributing $US1.8 billion.

Speaking on ABC TV’s Q&A program, Mr Gates said whilst he thought the government’s announcement on polio was ‘absolutely phenomenal’ he was disappointed Australia had delayed reaching its 0.5 per cent target in foreign aid until at least 2017-18.

“Australia is to be thanked that its aid budget has gone up, but the sooner you get to 0.5 per cent the sooner you are going to have an impact, so I was disappointed with the delay,” Mr Gates told the audience.

Burnet Institute malaria researchers are amongst those in the medical research community working towards an effective, life-saving vaccine. Malaria is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity for children globally.

Mr Gates said he was stunned at the lack of financial support for malaria vaccine research when he and wife Melinda established their Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“There is very little money being spent on a malaria vaccine. It was mind blowing to me that when my foundation gave US$40 million for malaria vaccine research we became the biggest funder in the world,” he said.

“Whenever you have a disease that is killing (at that time) one million children a year, now with bed nets we are down to something like 700,000, the idea that the world can’t take even 10 per cent of what it spends on say a baldness drug and put it on a malaria vaccine seemed pretty stunning to me.

“And yet the people who suffer from malaria don’t have a lot of money and their position in the market place is very weak. Only through government research or foundations will we pull that money together.

“I am quite optimistic that we understand enough about malaria and do what we call challenge models that we will eventually come up with one (a malaria vaccine).”

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Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Michael Toole AM

Epidemiologist, Technical Advisor Know-C19 Hub




[email protected]

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