Intl health alliance says pushes vaccine costs down

* Five in one vaccine price seen at $2.96 in 2010

* UN agencies say industry responding to market forces

* Prices seen 22 pct lower over 8 years by 2012

LONDON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - The price of a vaccine that helps babies fight off killer diseases has been forced down, thanks to a co-ordinated buying policy to meet the growing demand from developing countries, a U.N.-backed health alliance said on Wednesday.

Data from the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) showed average prices for the shots, which protect against five infant diseases, will have fallen by 22 percent over eight years by 2012.

“This price drop is no accident, but...the result of a strategy to leverage the purchasing power of hundreds of millions of people,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry said in statement.

“Clearly, industry understands and responds to a market, regardless of whether that market is in poor or rich countries.”

The five-in-one, or pentavalent, vaccine is given routinely to children in developed nations but price has kept them out of the reach of some poorer nations. GAVI, which buys and distributes vaccines for developing countries, said higher demand has pushed purchasing costs down.

A recent tender for the pentavalent shot showed prices for 2010 falling below $3.0 -- a drop of almost $0.50 cents per dose on the 2009 price.

“This will create approximately $55 million in savings in 2010 and enable GAVI to finance the immunisation of 6.3 million more children,” it said in a statement.

By 2012 the dose will have fallen in price to $2.85. The vaccine offer protection against Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and hepatitis B.

GAVI's programmes involve World Health Organisation-approved shots made by GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L, Crucell CRCL.AS, and the Indian drugmakers Shantha, owned by Sanofi-Aventis SASY.PA, and Panacea PNCA.BO.

In 2006, UNICEF bought less than 50 million doses of pentavalent vaccine, it said, but this year it is projected to buy around 120 million doses -- a demand seen rising by about another 10 million doses each year until 2012.

GAVI’s chief executive Julian Lob-Levyt said the price drop had come later than he had hoped but added: “This is the GAVI effect at work: encouraging and pooling growing demand from countries, attracting new manufacturers and increasing competition to drive down prices.”

GAVI, which is supported by the WHO, the World Bank, UNICEF, vaccine makers and research centres and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, said 256 million children had now received vaccines through its programmes.

GAVI raises money by leveraging long-term aid commitments from countries through capital markets, with regular offerings of “vaccine bonds” organised by the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm). [ID:nLJ592864] (Editing by Matthew Jones)