For every dollar spent on childhood immunizations, you get $44 in economic benefits


Takeaways

  1. Unsexy activities like vaccinations for children are the best deal in philanthropy.
  2. Reducing infant mortality also boosts nutrition, education, access to contraceptives, gender equity, and economic growth.
  3. If you’d like to help the world with a high-impact investment, consider donating to Gates Philanthropic Partners.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are best friends. The kind of best friends who write each other letters asking for explanations of what happened to their $30 billion gift. On December 12, 2016, Warren penned this letter to his buddy Bill.

When Warren Buffett donated his billions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, it was the biggest single gift anyone ever gave anybody for anything. It makes sense that he’d want to check in every once in a while—especially considering the lackluster returns that aid has garnered in recent decades.

In their 2017 Annual Report, Bill and Melinda Gates took to explaining their methods in a way Buffett understands well: return on investment.

Much of the funds went towards popular causes such as education and agriculture. But the major focus has by far been global health, with the foundation deeply involved in unsexy activities like vaccine distribution, access to contraceptives, and scientific research to help the impoverished. It was in basic global health initiatives that the returns on investment were most attractive.

Bill and Melinda Gates describe their “most profitable investment”:

If you want to know the best deal within the deal—it’s vaccines. Coverage for the basic package of childhood vaccines is now the highest it’s ever been, at 86 percent. And the gap between the richest and the poorest countries is the lowest it’s ever been. Vaccines are the biggest reason for the drop in childhood deaths.

They’re an incredible investment. The pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five deadly infections in a single shot, now costs under a dollar.

And for every dollar spent on childhood immunizations, you get $44 in economic benefits. That includes saving the money that families lose when a child is sick and a parent can’t work.

Providing access to affordable vaccines literally saves the lives of children. Melinda Gates wrote that “virtually all advances in society,” including areas such as nutrition, education, access to contraceptives, gender equity, and economic growth, “show up as gains in the childhood mortality chart, and every gain in this chart shows up in gains for society.”

The World Health Organization agrees, writing that “vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death, and inequity worldwide.” It’s simply the best deal in philanthropy.

Since 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped immunize over 580 million children. Globally, the proportion of global children with basic vaccinations has jumped to 86 percent from just 20 percent in 1980.

But that still leaves millions of kids not fully immunized. If you’d like to help the world with a high-impact investment, consider donating to Gates Philanthropic Partners, a new public charity the funnels your donations directly to Gates Foundation grantees.


Learn More

  1. Child Mortality — Our World in Data
  2. Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential — Dan Pallotta
  3. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time — Jeffrey Sachs
  4. How Not to Be Ignorant About the World — Ola Rosling & Hans Rosling