The global drive for immunisation of children in developing nations has undoubtedly made substantial progress in recent years. According to GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation), their work alone has prevented 5 million future deaths from deadly illness and disease. The largest proportion of that has been in the immunisation of Hepatitis B. Immunisation coverage of the disease has expanded rapidly in the last ten years from under 20% in 2000 to a projected total this year exceeding 70% coverage in low income countries.
However, there is widely expected to be a considerable funding gap between the the level of money required to continue with GAVI‘s international immunisation programmes and the expected level of future funding. GAVI‘s estimated shortfall in funding for these programmes has been put at $3.7 bn. Such a massive set back in funding would put a sizable dent in potential progress.
A pledge by major drug firms to cut the price of certain vaccines to organisations such as GAVI by up to two thirds has been enthusiastically welcomed by the international aid community. GlaxoSmithKleine have pledged to cut the price it sells rotavirus vaccines, which helps to prevent diarrhoea, by 67%, as well as other international pharmaceuticals pledging cuts on vaccines for ‘pentavalents’ that protect against such diseases as hepatitis, diptheria and tetanus.
These price cuts are thought to save GAVI $140 m up until 2015. A large amount of money and well received throughout the international community, but clearly not enough money to prevent the large funding shortfall estimated by GAVI.
Other international NGOs concerned with the issue of immunisation in low-income countries have called for change in the vaccine development and sales system in order to ensure the availability of cheap vaccines across the board. Medicin sans Frontiers and Oxfam have produced a joint report detailing how they consider the future of vaccine production and immunisation programme should be tackled. They cite a particularly successful example of cooperation between the World Health Organisation, U.S. NGO ‘PATH’ and Serum Institute of India that has led to a meningitis vaccine costing $0.50 dollars per vaccine.
In addition to the report there is the International Pledging Conference on the supply of vaccines to developing countries in London to be hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the 13th of June. This will bring heads of pharmaceutical firms, members of the international aid community, experts and politicians together to try and produce a way forward on funding for international immunisation, which will hopefully go someway to fill the potentially disastrous financial gap at GAVI.
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