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UNICEF Announces New Deal for Low-cost Five-in-one Vaccine for Children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has partnered with six vaccine makers and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) to offer 450 million doses of an inexpensive pentavalent vaccine for children.

A recent announcement from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) outlines a new effort promising a sustainable and low-cost five-in-one vaccine for children at the highest risk for catching deadly diseases through a partnership with vaccine suppliers.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Vaccine Action Plan, the 10 countries with the highest rates of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Philippines, Iraq, Uganda, and South Africa. Many of these countries have been ravaged by conflict and natural disasters that have greatly impacted public health and left many children vulnerable to disease. According to the WHO, nearly 20 million infants around the world are living without basic vaccines. Current vaccination rates prevent up to 3 million deaths each year; therefore, increasing immunization rates in children around the world could potentially prevent an additional 1.5 million annual deaths.

A recent press release from UNICEF lays out the agency’s new initiative to offer five inoculations in one shot, giving a big boost to vaccination rates in places where children need it the most. “Ninety per cent of the world’s children under five who die from vaccine-preventable diseases live in countries whose vaccine supply is no longer fully funded by donors,” said Shanelle Hall, director of UNICEF’s supply and procurement headquarters, in a press release. “For the most vulnerable children in the world, pricing can make a difference between life and death.”

Under the new initiative, UNICEF has partnered with six vaccine suppliers to buy 450 million doses of the pentavalent vaccine at only 84 cents per piece, nearly cutting half the current cost that the agency pays for each dose. In collaboration with vaccine companies Biology E, Jenssen, LG Life Sciences, Panacea Biotec Ltd, Serum Institute of India, and Shantha Biotechs, UNICEF aims to bring down the toll of deadly infections ranging from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, to Haemophilus influenzae type B.

According to UNICEF, from 2001 to 2015, the agency was able to increase the number of pentavalent doses they bought from 14.5 million to 235 million. With the new effort nearly doubling the number of available doses, the vaccines will be distributed to 80 countries over the next 3 years. Countries supported by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), an international organization largely backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will receive 400 million of those doses. Thanks to the new pricing agreement, countries and big donors will see a savings of more than $366 million.

In addition to the countries receiving these vaccines from UNICEF, other governments able to purchase the five-in-one vaccine will also have access to the new reduced pricing. For the health officials, donors, organizations, and suppliers involved in this new initiative, the goal is to avoid shortages and create an excess supply of vaccines by working with multiple vaccine developers that have signed multi-year contracts.

“Gavi estimates that 5.7 million deaths will be averted thanks to pentavalent vaccination in Gavi-supported countries between 2011 and 2020,” said Seth Berkley, MD, CEO of Gavi, in a the press release. “The market for five-in-one vaccines is now a lot healthier than it was just a few years ago thanks to our collective efforts to grow a base of vaccine suppliers. We remain committed to making vaccine markets work better for the world’s poorest countries to ensure immunization investments and efforts are sustainable for all."