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LONDON, June 9 The British government said on Thursday it would match millions of pounds in donations by companies to help fund vaccination programmes against illnesses in children in developing countries.
Up to 50 million pounds ($82 million) will be set aside for the scheme to match business donations up to that amount, the Department for International Development said.
"It is an international disgrace that three children die every minute from diseases that children in Britain are immunised against as a matter of course," said Andrew Mitchell, Britain's international development minister.
The funds will go to GAVI, the donor-funded Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, which funds bulk-buy vaccination programmes for countries that cannot afford Western prices and which is currently seeking to raise an extra $3.7 billion to keep its programmes going through to 2015. [ID:nLDE74T0YT]
The scheme is a three-way matching programme that to attract funding from companies, their customers or employees. It could raise up to 100 million pounds over five years to vaccinate children against diseases including pneumonia, Hepatitis B and rotavirus, which causes potentially fatal diarrhoea.
Mining firm Anglo American (AAL.L), which has around 95 percent of its operations in developing countries, was one of the first companies to pledge funds under the scheme, announcing on Monday it would give $1 million a year for three years.
Several leading drugmakers, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), Merck (MRK.N), Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) Crucell and Sanofi-Aventis's (SASY.PA) Sanofi Pasteur this week offered to cut some of their vaccine prices for developing countries to try to sustain supplies via GAVI. [ID:nLDE7560C8] (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Will Waterman) ($1=.6089 Pound)