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Africa’s child vaccine failure

African leaders are failing to hand out enough life-saving jabs to children, says multi-billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Their ability to get the vaccines out to children is standing in the way of billion dollar efforts to save millions of lives and stamp out deadly diseases, he said.

Talking about the "miracle of vaccines" before giving a speech to the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week, Gates stressed that disease-fighting technology cannot work if it doesn’t get to the children who need it.

Low cost vaccines can now be made and paid for by rich donors, but "you have to have developing countries act to take the vaccines and get them out to all the kids," he said. "It is tragic when the last delivery piece holds it back,"

"You have some countries, northern Nigeria, or Chad or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where less than half the kids right now are getting the vaccines," he told Associated Press news service.

Talking about polio jabs in those countries, he said: "They are just not putting good people on it, not tracking their results, not even getting out to parts of the country. The message has to be clear. They have to see this as their top priority. It hasn't been."

When vaccines save lives it is "not because of hospitals or doctors or any of the expensive stuff,” said Gates. “It doesn't require fancy equipment. Simply keeping the vaccination cold and getting them out to all the kids."

He has been pushing hard to get donors to keep funding up as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization struggles to fill a £2billion funding shortfall.

Appealing to governments to boost their investments in vaccines and immunisation, he said it could save up to 10 million lives by 2020.

“You must make vaccines a central focus of your health systems, to ensure that all your children have access to existing vaccines now, and to new ones as they become available,” he said at the World Health Assembly yesterday.

“If donors are generous, we will prevent four million deaths by 2015. By 2020, we can prevent 10 million deaths.”

Describing his vision for what he calls a ‘decade of vaccines,’ the philanthropist said the extra funding could eliminate polio, as well as bring five or six new vaccines to countries that need them at prices they can afford.

“We can make this the decade in which we take full advantage of the technology of vaccines,” said Gates.

Hayley attribution