Donors asked for $4.3 billion for vaccines for poor

LONDON (Reuters) - A further $4.3 billion is needed if a global vaccines alliance is to meet its goal of supplying life-saving immunizations to millions of children in poor countries by 2015, the organization said on Monday.

A woman receives a H1N1 influenza vaccine shot from a medical staff at a hospital in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok January 11, 2010. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

The GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation) said it had asked existing and potential donors to a meeting in The Hague on March 25 and 26 to challenge them to “make a strong impact” on childhood death rates.

In 2000, world leaders from 189 countries signed up to the Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

GAVI, which is supported by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and vaccine makers, says it has 40 percent of the $7 billion it needs between now and 2015 to help meet that goal.

GAVI has almost completed a large-scale campaign to supply so-called pentavalent, or five-in-one, vaccines to fight a range of preventable diseases including hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and Hib in developing countries.

“With $7 billion, (GAVI) will be able to fully roll out pentavalent vaccine and introduce new vaccines against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus diarrhea in over 40 countries,” it said in a statement. “These last two vaccines alone can save one million children by 2015.”

Britain last week pledged 150 million pounds over the next 10 years for GAVI’s core funding, a move the group’s deputy chief executive Helen Evans said she hoped others would follow.

“This is the first sovereign donor to have made a 10-year commitment to GAVI, and that really helps because it builds predictability into funding...and actually helps to shape the market for vaccines,” she told Reuters.

Children in rich nations are routinely immunized against the bacteria causing deadly diseases -- namely Hib, pneumococcus and rotavirus -- but in much of Africa, Asia and Latin America, babies and young people often remain dangerously exposed.

The scale of GAVI’s buying and distribution power allows it to secure much lower prices for vaccines, which are then supplied to poor nations at a fraction of their cost.

GAVI said last week it expected to announce a deal very soon on the supply of up to 200 million doses a year of cut-price pneumococcal vaccines to developing nations.

The pneumococcal deal will be partly funded by Britain, Italy, Canada, Russia, and Norway, who agreed in June last year to invest a total of $1.5 billion in the project.

Editing by Ralph Boulton