After all of the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the International Finance Facility for Immunization, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown officially launched the initiative by issuing $1 billion in bonds earlier today. In a remarkable publicity coup, the very first 1,000 euro bond was purchased by none other than Pope Benedict XVI, with bonds two through six sold to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Network of Sikh Organisations, respectively. Not to be completely outdone, Bono and Bob Geldof have also expressed their intention to buy additional bonds in support of the project.
See the GAVI press release for more information on the launch, as well as a CGD Working Paper on the cost-effectiveness of the initiative.
Update 1: Bill Gates and Gordon Brown also co-authored an op-ed in today's Irish Independent announcing the IFFIm launch while simultaneously endorsing advance market commitments for vaccines:
We need more donors to join these financing initiatives. We need more minds devoted to finding creative solutions. By matching the power of medical advance with innovative finance we can fill the gap between what we are capable of and what we are willing to do - and unleash the power of human ingenuity and goodness to save millions of lives.
The complementarities between these different financing mechanisms are laid out in our Vaccines for Development brief.
Update 2: Industry speaks up in support of both IFFIm and AMCs in an IFPMA press release.