Daring to disrupt for a healthier future, sooner #WFGM17


By Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao

Managing Director, Resource Mobilization and Private Sector Partnership at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance


From the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the Paris Climate Accord, when it comes to solving the world’s greatest challenges we live in a time of highly ambitious global goals. But ambition alone will not be enough to succeed. In the face of growing global trends such as population growth, urbanisation and human migration we need to go beyond conventional thinking and dare to disrupt. Not only will this help the world achieve the positive change we seek, but it will help us accelerate the path to impact. 


One example of this is the global challenge of improving childhood immunisation. Thanks to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, where I work, we are now reaching more than 86% of the world’s children with life-saving vaccines. But now if we want to reach those that are still going without, then we will need to go further.


Gavi already has a long history of positive disruption. Since 2000, we have brought together innovative finance, government aid and the private sector expertise to find new ways of improving access to immunisation for children living in the world’s poorest countries. By pairing disruptive thinking with lifesaving vaccine technology, we’ve been able to vaccinate 640 million children and prevent nine million deaths.


But now in order to achieve our own ambitious targets of vaccinating a further 300 million children by 2020, which would prevent 5-6 million future deaths, we will need to find ways to improve vaccine delivery, storage and supply for those living in the most vulnerable settings. We must do so while keeping an eye on vaccine markets, ensuring these vital products remain available and at the right price to keep reaching the world’s poorest. That all means being prepared to rethink how we do things and being open to new disruptive solutions.


For Gavi, this involves building versatile relationships with the private sector, to ensure the right products are available at the right time. One powerful example of this approach in action came last year, when we took steps to support the development of Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine with an Advance Purchase Commitment. This accelerated the development process ensuring that emergency vaccines were available for DRC to use when Ebola struck again in May 2017.


But vaccines are only one piece of the puzzle - this same disruptive approach can go further to accelerate other kinds of emerging lifesaving technology that assists them. One fascinating example of this kind of innovative thinking is Gavi’s collaboration with logistics giant UPS and US-based company Zipline, which is now trialling autonomous drone deliveries of medical supplies in Rwanda. In partnership with the Rwandan Government, this nationwide system enables vital medical supplies to be delivered across the country in minutes instead of hours.


This is just one of many start-ups and small-scale innovators we are working with to find transformative solutions. Through our INFUSE platform, now in its second year, innovators from around the world have the opportunity to scale up their solutions to key immunisation challenges. We have already brought together Nexleaf - a monitoring platform that uses sensors to provide real-time data on vaccine storage temperatures - with Google, which will enable low income countries to modernise their cold chain and safeguard their investment in immunisation. Other impressive inventions we’ve supported include Khushi Baby, a startup pioneering wearable technology (a necklace) to replace inefficient and easily lost vaccination cards.


However, ultimately this is about helping improve the lives of people who feel the burden of vaccine challenges, which often means women. It is mothers who usually tasked with bringing their children to a vaccination clinic, remembering the shots their little ones need and keeping their vaccination records safe. And it is often female health workers that staff the health clinics, giving vaccines and conducting outreach to communities.

A vaccine refrigerator, monitored using the Nexleaf Analytics ColdTrace wireless remote temperature technology. Credit: Nexleaf Analytics


So while evolving collaborations like those mentioned above allow public and private sectors to find new ways to prevent disease, they are also supporting women and their families around world. In the context of the many other global challenges we face, these examples also show the importance of disruption in accelerating progress towards the healthier future we all want. Now we must dare to pursue it.


This article is part of our 'Daring to lead' series', highlighting voices from the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society Global Meeting, in Paris, on 5-6 October. You can see our full programme and current list of speakers for the event at the Women’s Forum website.