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Bill Gates will have the attention of most of the world’s health ministers on Tuesday, when he plans to share one main message: Get your vaccination rates up. Gates is pushing to get countries to increase vaccination rates as an easy, low-cost way to protect their populations. He is scheduled to give the keynote address at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
“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,” he said.
During Tuesday’s speech, Gates will highlight strong results from a new meningitis vaccine in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, where last year there were 66 cases in the first four months. This year the country has seen only one case. A “meningitis belt” runs through Burkina Faso, Chad, Nigeria and Niger. But the new vaccine, which is being given to infants and adults, has shown strong results so far.
“It’s a success story,” Gates said. “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.”