Bill Gates says African countries hampering vaccinations

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says some African countries are hampering efforts to deliver life-saving vaccines to children.

Gates made the comments in Senegal, ahead of his planned address to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Reuters reports.

“You have to have developing countries act to take the vaccines and get them out to all the kids,” Gates said, according to Reuters. “It is tragic when the last delivery piece holds it back.”

Gates was referring to vaccines that were invented and manufactured at a low cost with rich donors paying the bill. Gates pointed to northern Nigeria, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo as places where less than half of children were receiving polio vaccinations.

“They are just not putting good people on it, not tracking their results, not even getting out to parts of the country,” Gates said, Reuters reports. “The message has to be clear. They have to see this as their top priority. It hasn’t been.”

It is believed that the world is close to ending the occurrence of polio entirely. The paralyzing disease now only afflicts a few countries in the developing world.

In Africa, millions of children die every year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia because of the expense of distributing vaccines. Also, other diseases like malaria are in need of newer, low-cost vaccines.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization is seeking to fill a $3.7 billion gap in funding at its June 13 pledging conference, and Gates has been pushing hard to attract and keep donors.

Gates has pledged $10 billion of his own fortune to help vaccinate children in the next decade, Reuters reports. He is calling on others to invest in vaccination as a cost-effective means to boost development.

“As you improve health you are allowing people to develop and be educated,” Gates said, according to Reuters.