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Home / Health & Science

Unicef clinches vaccine deal to avert five diseases

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy REUTERS | Fri,Oct 21 2016 00:00:00 EAT
By REUTERS | Fri,Oct 21 2016 00:00:00 EAT

 

A United Nations agency has reached an agreement with six vaccine suppliers to provide a combined vaccine against five deadly childhood diseases for half the price it currently pays.

An estimated 5.7 million deaths a year could be averted under the deal to send 450 million doses to 80 countries between 2017-2020, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said.

"We will be able to procure pentavalent vaccine to protect children ... for less than $1 (Sh100) a dose," Shanelle Hall, director of Unicef's supply and procurement division, told a news briefing.

The vaccine, a cornerstone of routine immunisation programme, will protect children from five major infections in one shot: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type b known as Hib - a bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis.

The six suppliers are Biology E, Jenssen, LG Life Sciences, Panacea Biotec Ltd, Serum Institute of India, and Shantha Biotechs.

The deal, which took 16 years to reach, will bring down the average price to 85 cents a dose, half the amount that Unicef currently pays, generating savings for donors and governments.

It took time to expand a base of vaccine suppliers, which will reduce the risk of shortages, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance said in a statement.

GAVI and the Gates Foundation joined Unicef in securing the multi-year suppliers' contract.

At the same time, the World Health Organisation, drugmakers and humanitarian groups were on Wednesday hammering out details of a new vaccine supply system aimed at getting vital shots to vulnerable people in crises such as wars or natural disasters.

The mechanism, which so far has British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline signed up to provide its pneumonia vaccine at the lowest possible price, will ask other major pharmaceutical firms including Pfizer and Merck to make similar cut-price agreements for emergencies only.

"The idea is that this will set a model in place for other manufacturers to put their vaccines on the table," said Greg Elder, a medical coordinator with the international charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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