José Manuel Barroso, a former prime minister of Portugal who from 2004 also served a decade as president of the European Commission, was on Tuesday appointed chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI), an organisation that has gained hugely in importance in the Covid-19 pandemic.
His appointment to the position, which is unpaid, was unanimously approved by GAVI’s board of directors at a meeting in Geneva, according to a statement from the organisation. He formally starts work in January 2021, replacing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, whose term of office ends in December this year.
Barroso is currently non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International, a London-based unit of the US investment bank.
The GAVI statement says that the board’s search committee cited Barroso’s “considerable stature and experience, his track record as a leader, his immense experience chairing multi-stakeholder Boards and his commitment to international cooperation as deciding factors in making the selection.”
Barroso was prime minister of Portugal from 2002 to 2004, as leader of the centre-right Social Democratic Party, before being tapped to head the European Union executive.
In a reaction quoted in the GAVI statement, Barroso said: “The world needs Gavi now more than ever, both to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach every country, rich and poor, and to press ahead with its core mission to protect hundreds of millions of people from preventable diseases.”
GAVI is a public-private partnership that describes itself as “helping to vaccinate almost half the world’s children against deadly and debilitating diseases”. Since its creation in 2000, GAVI has contributed to the immunisation of more than 760 million children, so preventing over 13 million deaths and halving child mortality in 73 developing countries.
The alliance brings together governments from both developing and donor countries, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners.
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