updated 1/25/2005 12:07:09 PM ET 2005-01-25T17:07:09

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Monday it is donating $750 million to support immunization programs in developing countries.

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The 10-year grant to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization will be used to buy and distribute vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, tuberculosis, polio, hepatitis B and yellow fever.

It is also expected to encourage vaccine companies to continue developing and producing medicines for illnesses that have been all but eliminated in more developed nations, said Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who created the foundation five years ago with his wife.

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“We need to make it make sense for these firms to take resources they would put on rich world diseases and put them on developing country diseases,” Gates said.

The Gates Foundation is the largest donor to the global alliance, with grants totaling $1.5 billion.

“These large contributions will help save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and prevent immense suffering and disability over the coming years,” said Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, chairman of the alliance and director general of the World Health Organization.

About 2 million people die each year of infectious diseases that could have been prevented through basic vaccinations, he said.

The Gates Foundation is one of the world’s major philanthropic organizations. Last year, it gave $82.9 million to help develop tuberculosis vaccines.

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