Vaccine alliance says 5-in-1 vaccine cost to fall

LONDON (Reuters) - The price of a life-saving vaccine against five deadly diseases is expected to drop further in 2011, allowing more of the world’s poorest children to be immunized, the global vaccines group GAVI said on Friday.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization said that thanks to increased demand for the pentavalent, or five-in-one vaccine and a reduced price offer by an un-named emerging market vaccine manufacturer, the average price will drop to $2.58 next year compared to the current average price of $2.97.

This represents a decrease of 30 percent over the last seven years, GAVI said in a statement.

The pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B, is routinely given to children in wealthy nations but price has kept it out of the reach of some poorer nations.

The shot is very much needed in low-income countries where access to health services is often limited and mothers have find it hard to bring their babies to be regularly vaccinated.

GAVI, which buys and distributes vaccines for developing countries, said higher demand had pushed purchasing costs down.

“By pooling the strong demand by developing countries and ensuring long-term sustainable funding, these vaccines are becoming increasingly affordable,” GAVI’s interim chief executive Helen Evans said in a statement. “As a result, more children can be protected against these deadly diseases.”

The alliance said that as recently as 2004, only a handful of poor countries were using the pentavalent vaccine, but more than 80 percent of them were using it now that it is cheaper.

GAVI’s pentavalent programs currently involve World Health Organization-approved vaccines made by GlaxoSmithKline, Crucell, the Serum Institute of India and Panacea.

GAVI said its commitment to fund the vaccine for poorer countries had drawn new manufacturers to the market, creating competition and pushing prices down. Next year, five versions of the vaccine will be available, most of them from drugmakers in emerging markets, it said, but would not give details of the latest manufacturer to join the pool.

Even with lower vaccine prices, GAVI says it still needs around $3.7 billion over the next five years to continue providing pentavalent shot for poorer countries, as well as new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrheal diseases, the two biggest killers of young children in the world.

GAVI, which is supported by the WHO, the World Bank, UNICEF, vaccine makers and research centers and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, said that since its launch in 2000, an extra 288 million children have been immunized and more than 5 million premature deaths averted.

The group estimates that a fully-funded program would prevent 3.9 million future deaths by 2015.

The alliance raises money by leveraging long-term aid commitments from countries through capital markets, with regular offerings of “vaccine bonds” organized by the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm).

Editing by Jon Loades-Carter