Rafael Vilasanjuan , Director of Policy and Global Development at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), has been appointed to the board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. By fulfilling its mission to save lives and reduce poverty through vaccination, the Vaccine Alliance plays a key role in global health efforts, providing services that drive human and economic development.
Chaired by the economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance of Nigeria, and composed of 28 members representing various organizations, the Gavi board is the Vaccine Alliance’s supreme governing body. Its functions include strategic direction, policy-making, overseeing operations and monitoring programme implementation. Vilasanjuan was appointed to the board after a thorough and rigorous selection process involving numerous candidates. As announced by the members of the alliance, the new board member will serve until December 2021.
Gavi is currently devoting much of its efforts to guaranteeing access to a vaccine against COVID-19, with several candidate vaccines now in the early stages of development. “In a crisis like this one, when humanity is pinning its hopes on the development of a vaccine, the real value of immunisation is appreciated more than ever,” commented Vilasanjuan. “We calculate that the first vaccine could reach the market in 14 to 18 months, but in the meantime we need to strengthen health systems and routine vaccination programmes in low-income countries and ensure that these routine programmes continue to reach all those that need them and prevent the virus from wreaking even greater havoc on the most vulnerable populations in those countries.”
A Career Dedicated to the Greater Good
Vilasanjuan graduated from the Autonomous University of Barcelona with a degree in Information Sciences. He then worked for over 12 years at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), starting as Director of Communications in 1995 before becoming the General Director of MSF Spain. He was appointed Secretary General of MSF International in 1999—the year the organisation was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize—and held this post until 2005. During his tenure as Secretary General, Vilasanjuan was a founding member of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), which develops and distributes new treatments for neglected diseases in developing countries.
Between 2006 and 2011, Vilasanjuan served as Deputy Director of the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB). Since March 2012, he has led the Policy and Global Development department at ISGlobal. He also chairs the Exit Foundation, which works to integrate young people at risk of exclusion and serves on advisory committees for organisations such as Open Democracy the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT).
Gavi and ISGlobal: More Than Half a Decade of Collaboration
The relationship between ISGlobal and Gavi dates back to 2014, when the Institute signed a collaboration agreement with the Business Alliance for Childhood Vaccination, a body created in 2008 by Gavi and the ”la Caixa” Foundation to promote child immunisation in developing countries and help save the lives of millions of children.
In 2016, the two institutions strengthened their ties when ISGlobal became a member of the Gavi Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Steering Committee. This committee, made up of 19 international organisations, coordinates the activities of Gavi’s CSO constituency to ensure that vaccines reach children in even in the poorest countries. Vilasanjuan joined Gavi as a member of the CSO Steering Committee in 2016 and was appointed to its chair the following year.