Bill Gates calls for increasing vaccination rates

Bill Gates gave the keynote address at the World Health Assembly today in Geneva, sharing the main message that countries need to increase their vaccination rates.

Gates and the health community at large want to see the vaccination rate in every country to rise to at least 90 percent, up from the current rate of about 80 percent. Another part of the goal would be to raise the vaccination rate above 80 percent in every area in any country, the Associated Press reports.  

Gates said that this difficult goal will be easier to meet with new and cheaper vaccines.

"Every percentage point you increase from where we are now to that goal you're talking about hundreds of children who don't die and thousands of children who don't get sick in a way that prevents their brain from developing fully," Gates said, according to the AP.

Gates highlighted strong results from a new meningitis vaccine in Burkina Faso, where there were only 66 cases reported in the first four months of last year and only one reported case this year.

"It's a success story," Gates said, according to the AP. "For people who live in the meningitis belt the kind of fear and seeing the kids who are made deaf because of it they see it as a huge breakthrough. People immediately come and get this vaccine because they have such a fear of the disease."

Gates also discussed polio during his speech, which he said could be eradicated in the next two to four years.

"The long fight against polio proves just how powerful vaccine technology can be, but it also demonstrates that technology is only as effective as the leaders delivering it," Gates said in his speech, according to prepared remarks, the AP reports. “Now we're 99 percent of the way there, because of two things: A $0.13 vaccine so easy to administer that even I have done it many times, and the biggest, farthest-reaching delivery effort global health has ever seen."

Most of the work Gates had done with vaccines has been in underdeveloped countries, but diseases like measles can strike anywhere that vaccination rates aren’t high enough.

"Fortunately outbreaks in rich countries aren't large, only in the hundreds, but still that's tragic because it comes from misinformation, where people are scared about vaccines with things like the claim that there was some autism effect even though that's been completely discredited," Gates said, according to the AP.