Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Kudos as Nigeria’s Pate takes charge at Gavi

By Chukwuma Muanya
18 February 2023   |   4:00 am
A former Nigerian Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali, was on Monday appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi, in a statement yesterday said Pate, who was the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer ....

Muhammad Ali Pate

A former Nigerian Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, was on Monday appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Gavi, in a statement yesterday said Pate, who was the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) before he became minister, would be officially starting as CEO on August 3, 2023.

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

He is celebrated for his giant strides in Nigeria’s efforts to eradicate polio and improve routine immunisation. Pate, who was selected following a year-long recruitment process personally overseen by the Chair of the Gavi Board, Prof. José Manuel Barroso, will 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, Pate 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 Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (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 immunization 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.”

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.”

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.”

Berkley will continue to serve as CEO until August 3, 2023, while working with incoming CEO Pate to ensure a smooth transition. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 981 million children – and prevented more than 16.2 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 lower-income countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningococcal and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation, above all the zero-dose children who have not received even a single vaccine shot. The Vaccine Alliance employs innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency.

Gavi is a co-convener of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF). In its role, Gavi is focused on procurement and delivery for COVAX: coordinating the design, implementation and administration of the COVAX Facility and the Gavi COVAX AMC and working with its Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments on country readiness and delivery.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. Pate had in March 2017 missed the opportunity of being named the next Executive Director of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

According to ScienceInsider, Pate was among three shortlisted candidates to lead the Global Fund, but the group had decided to reopen its search due to leaks on concerns about alienating United States President, Donald Trump and allegations of conflicts of interest. All of the reasons led to a surprise decision by the board of the Global Fund to continue the search for a new executive director.

A statement by the Geneva, Switzerland-based Global Fund read: “Due to issues in the recruitment process, the Board felt they were unable to bring the process to conclusion.”

Pate had, on April last year, as co-chair of the core panel of the initiative on the Future of Health and Economic Resiliency in Africa (FHERA) and professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, called for focusing to reorient African health.

Pate told The Guardian: “The initiative is aimed at shaping the future of health in Africa. We are very appreciative of the leadership and support of President Macky Sall of Senegal and also President of the African Union 2022. We are focusing to reorient African health towards prevention and promotion, raising the prioritisation of health in domestic policies as key driver of economic growth and security, in light of recent pandemic experiences of Africa.

“Revamping health workforce and their incentives especially at the primary health levels, promoting digitalisation, shaping health markets, regulations and enabling private sector participation in local manufacturing and service delivery without leaving anyone behind received attention. Issues like hygiene, nutrition, food systems and climate, as well as specific challenges in the Sahel region were also discussed. We will arm African leaders with analysis, evidence and recommendations for actions to change the trajectory in line with the Agenda 2063 vision.”

Pate had said health could be a key driver of economic growth with African youth and women as arrowheads for societal transformation. The panel called for reforms of policies, systems and regulatory structures to improve efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and responsiveness to the needs of communities and the citizens.

According to him, political leadership is needed to prioritise domestic financing to meet citizens’ health expectations, while reorienting external aid to follow Africa-led priorities and mechanisms. He said workforce development, especially the expansion of pre-service training, optimising deployment, and leveraging the African Diaspora were important areas of focus. To get back on track towards truly Universal Health Coverage, he said community-based primary health and hospital systems development must be integrated with strengthened public health systems for prevention and response to disease outbreaks.

The panel highlighted the urgency of enhancing local production, developing at-scale and sustainable value chains for pharmaceuticals, health products, nutrition products, devices and related technologies; regulatory reforms and realising the value of a continental health services market, particularly by reviving a mandate for healthcare in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA). Expanding private sector investments and fostering digital and analytic ecosystems would improve access and quality of health care.

With the FHERA initiative now activated, the panel and working groups will develop programmes in the identified priority areas and engage in relevant consultations and policy dialogue to make recommendations and provide options as a “brain trust” for leaders on the continent.

The panel was co-chaired by Prof. Awa Coll Seck, Minister of State in the Presidency, Senegal. It comprised key leaders, academics and practitioners affiliated with the World Health Organisation, UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Africa Centre for Disease Control, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Congo Medical Research Foundation, Health Strategy and Delivery Foundation, The Brookings Institution, Agence Francaise de Developpement, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and partners, including The Lancet, Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and facilitation by McKinsey & Company.

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