WASHINGTON, D.C. — The GAVI Alliance, formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, announced Tuesday that it has received a $1.5 million contribution from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in support of its worldwide immunization programs.

The donation, which includes a $1 million contribution for this year and a $500,000 contribution from last year, is coupled with the humanitarian efforts of LDS volunteers throughout the world to protect children from disease through immunization, said GAVI chairman Dagfinn Hoybraten.

"The church's generous contribution of both its volunteers' time and its funding will make a significant difference in helping protect the most vulnerable children against disease," Hoybraten said in accepting a check from LDS officials during the organization's board meeting on Tuesday. "Their work in Kenya, Ghana and elsewhere encouraging parents to vaccinate their children is critically important to the health not only of those families, but communities and countries as a whole. It is a beautiful example of how civil society is making a difference in immunization around the world."

According to Hoybraten, the LDS Church's $1.5 million cash contribution is the largest made to GAVI by a religious organization. It will actually be doubled through a matching fund by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be used to purchase vaccines and support immunization programs in GAVI-supported countries.

"The church is grateful to have the opportunity to contribute in such a meaningful, on-the-ground way in helping save children's lives and protecting people's health through GAVI immunization programs," said Fred Riley of the LDS Church's Humanitarian Services Division. "The funds come from our members and represent the priority the church places on this good work."

Riley said that immunization has become one of the church's major humanitarian initiatives, along with other outreach efforts such as emergency response, clean water, wheelchair distribution, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care and food production.