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Buhari Hails Pate on Appointment as Gavi CEO

The incoming chief executive has pledged to support countries scale up critical routine immunisation programmes.

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday congratulated the incoming Chief Executive Officer of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, Nigeria’s Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate over his appointment.

The president said he was looking forward to working closely with Pate to strengthen the nation’s health system and on other global health issues.

Buhari, in a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, described Pate’s rise across racial and other barriers to become the first black/African to lead Gavi as a very important historical moment not only for him personally but Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

According to Buhari: “Our hope is that Dr. Pate will bring his knowledge, expertise and very rich experience in the administration of vaccines and immunisation in Nigeria and many parts of Africa to increase access to vaccines to further reduce the disturbing levels of child mortality on the continent and all over the world as his job requires. Congratulations, Nigeria is proud of your achievements.”

According to a report by Gavi New Media on day, Pate would be officially starting as CEO on August 3, 2023.

It described Pate as a proven global health leader with experience at the national and international levels. Pate would lead Gavi as it continues its work to support routine immunisation, outbreak response and COVID-19 vaccinations around the world.

Pate, who was selected following a year-long recruitment process personally overseen by the Chair of the Gavi Board, Prof. José Manuel Barroso, would bring a wealth of experience to the role.

A medical doctor trained in both internal medicine and infectious diseases, with an MBA from Duke University in the United States, Pate served as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health between 2011 and 2013.

In this role, he led a flagship initiative to revive routine vaccinations and primary health care, chaired a presidential taskforce to eradicate polio and introduced new vaccines into the country.

While serving as Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population of the World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility at the World Bank between 2019 and 2021, he led the Bank’s $18 billion COVID-19 global health response and represented the Bank on various boards, including those of Gavi, the Global Fund, CEPI and UNAIDS.

He is currently the Julio Frenk Professor of Public Health Leadership at Harvard Chan School of Public Health and has served on several health-focused boards and expert panels in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors during his career.

Commenting on the appointment, Barroso said: “Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate stood out in a field of world-class candidates. With his knowledge and experience of both national immunisation programming and international emergency response and global finance, I am confident that Gavi will continue to build on its vision and mission, as well as navigate the many challenges and opportunities we will face.”

While accepting the offer, Pate, whose appointment was confirmed yesterday, at an extraordinary meeting of the Gavi Board said: “I’m deeply honoured to be joining Gavi as its incoming CEO. Gavi is one of the most impactful organisations in global health, a testament to the great work of the Alliance partners and Secretariat staff.

“It will be my privilege to lead it, building on the work of Dr. Seth Berkley, and continue to support countries to scale up critical routine immunisation programmes, reach more zero-dose children, expand access to new vaccines, transform primary health care systems, and help fight outbreaks and future pandemics.”

Sitting CEO, Berkley had led Gavi for more than half of its existence, making it a centrepiece within the global health landscape, including recently co-establishing COVAX to serve countries during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, having so far shipped nearly 1.9 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to 146 countries.

Since Berkley took the helm in 2011, the Alliance has averted 11.8 million future deaths (compared to 4.5 million between 2000 and 2010); and has helped immunise more than 676 million children – more than double the 305 million children reached between 2000 and 2010.

Gavi also hailed Berkley’s vision for health equity, which  added a number of new vaccines to its portfolio during his tenure, including for HPV, polio, cholera and malaria, and in its current strategy cycle is focusing on reaching zero-dose children across marginalised communities.

The Alliance also played an increasingly influential role in emergency response, developing vaccine stockpiles for diseases such as cholera and introducing innovative financing mechanisms to fund emergency purchase of Ebola and COVID-19 vaccines.

The economic result of Gavi’s expansion of activities during his tenure has been profound, unlocking over US$ 160 billion of economic benefits compared to $24 billion in its first 10 years.

Commenting on Pate’s appointment, Berkley said: “Leading Gavi and helping the Alliance to continually surpass itself in terms of saving lives, protecting children and supporting countries during global health emergencies has been the greatest honour of my career.

“I am proud and humbled to have been part of what the Alliance has achieved, and I am confident in its future under Muhammad’s leadership: having worked with him during his time as Minister and at the World Bank, I know he understands intimately the landscape we work in and will be uncompromising in his drive for public health equity.”

The report stated that Berkley would continue to serve as CEO until 2 August 2023, while working with incoming CEO to ensure a smooth transition.

Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

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