SEATTLE, Washington — UNICEF announced recently that a crucial disease-preventing pentavalent vaccine has received funding thanks to the international coordination of private and public funding. The vaccine’s new record-low price is expected to save the lives of millions of children over the next three years.
A pentavalent vaccine is one that combines five individual vaccines into one. The vaccine that received this funding, which is also the most common type of pentavalent, targets diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B — which can cause bacterial meningitis, pneumonia and other serious infections.
The international nonprofit organization Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), which lobbied for the pentavalent vaccine funding, welcomed the development. The price drop for the pentavalent vaccine will see it available in hard-hit countries for less than one U.S. dollar. More than 450 million doses will be distributed to more than 80 countries.
“We estimate that pentavalent vaccination will avert 5.7 million deaths in Gavi-supported countries between 2011 and 2020”, Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said in a press release. That figure would not have been possible without this most recent funding.
Gavi works to secure funding to lower vaccine prices around the world, and expects the price drop to save vaccine producers 366 million dollars. In other terms, every dollar spent on vaccine supplies will save 18 dollars on treating future victims and containing mass outbreaks.
UNICEF credits the price drop, and other similar successes, to the robust partnership between manufacturers, nonprofits and government organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since Gavi’s inception in 2000, manufacturers of the pentavalent vaccine increased from one to five and the number of countries reached from seven to 72. Almost 580 million children have been immunized.
UNICEF has a largely positive outlook on the situation for affected countries. Supplies have flooded in and forecasts are more accurate and more positive. In fact, UNICEF now appears to be in a position of greater flexibility, to the extend that its strategies allow financial stability rather than desperation. A UNICEF status report on the market for the pentavalent vaccine and its supply to Gavi-supported countries states that a “rapid maturity of the supply market” will allow the maintenance of record-low prices.
The report also states that the funding secured by organizations like Gavi has all but ensured that recipient countries will graduate from total dependence on foreign aid as early as 2016. However, for now, high-level organization and behind-the-scenes work is still necessary to ensure that the pentavalent vaccine receives funding.
– James Collins