Lecce, Italy, 12 June 2009 - The GAVI Alliance partners, the World Bank, WHO and UNICEF, and five national governments and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today formally kicked-off the first-ever Advance Market Commitment (AMC) designed to accelerate access to vaccines against pneumococcal disease.
This innovative financing mechanism will ensure that children in the world's poorest countries receive life-saving vaccines 15-20 years before they might otherwise have been available and at prices their governments can afford.
It's a great example of how innovation and technology together can produce life-saving advances and make them available to people who need them around the world.
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Pneumococcal disease takes the lives of 1.6 million people each year - including up to one million children before their fifth birthday. More than 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Pneumonia, the most common form of serious pneumococcal disease, accounts for one in every four child deaths, making it the leading cause of death among young children. It is estimated that the AMC pneumococcal pilot could prevent more than seven million childhood deaths by 2030.
Today's signature of the AMC pilot's legal documents caps two years of work between donors and GAVI partners UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Health Organization to finalise the financial, legal and regulatory elements of the project.
"The AMC is an important step towards reducing the health inequities between rich and poor, and a way to protect the lives of the world's poorest children,' said Dr Julian Lob-Levyt, GAVI's CEO.
"An affordable pneumococcal vaccine is critical to reaching the Millennium Development Goals. We look forward to pharmaceutical firms applying to the AMC quickly in order to ensure the rapid introduction of life-saving vaccines against pneumonia."
Although a pneumococcal vaccine has existed since 2000 and is part of regular immunisation programmes in developed countries, there is not a suitable and affordable vaccine for developing countries.
This pilot AMC aims to address this challenge by stimulating the late stage development and manufacture of suitable vaccines at affordable prices.
Through an AMC, donors commit money to guarantee the price of vaccines once they have been developed, thus creating the potential for a viable future market. These commitments provide vaccine makers with the incentive to invest the considerable sums required to conduct research and development and build manufacturing capacity.
The currently existing pneumococcal vaccine is sold at over US$70 per dose in industrialised countries. But thanks to the AMC, the long term price for developing countries will be US$ 3.50.
"This innovative new model will mean faster access to vaccines for millions of children in poor countries. It's a great example of how innovation and technology together can produce life-saving advances and make them available to people who need them around the world" said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the AMC pneumococcal pilot, the governments of Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, and Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$ 1.5 billion and the GAVI Alliance promised to allocate $ 1.3 billion through 2015. Implementing countries will provide a small co-payment to contribute towards the cost of the vaccines.
The World Bank provides fiduciary support, the World Health Organization has established the minimum technical criteria for a suitable pneumococcal vaccine and UNICEF will be responsible for vaccine procurement and distribution.
Companies that participate in the AMC will make legally binding long term commitments to supply the vaccines at lower and sustainable prices after the donor funds are spent.
GAVI hopes to assist up to 60 of the world's poorest countries to introduce these vaccines by 2015.
Through its innovative approach to public health funding, the AMC serves as a foundation to accelerate the rollout of a new pneumococcal vaccine in poor countries, and holds the promise of speeding up the development of new vaccines in the future.
The World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF and other GAVI partners are continuously working together in a new accelerated and integrated approach to combat childhood killers, including pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhea, the two biggest vaccine-preventable diseases.
Together, these diseases account for more than 35 percent of all child deaths each year, the majority of which are in the developing world.
With new partnerships, better planning, and successful innovative financing like the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), GAVI has already dramatically increased access to new and under-used vaccines and has prevented some 3.4 million future deaths since 2000.