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  • Pneumonia vaccine gets quick launch in Nicaragua


[BOGOTA] Nicaragua is the first developing country to start immunising children with a new pneumonia vaccine this month (12 December), the same year the vaccine was released in the United States.

This is the first vaccine purchased by the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) mechanism, launched in June 2009, which brings donors and pharmaceutical companies together to speed up access to new vaccines in the developing world.

"That's very uncommon," Marina Krawczyk, advocacy and communications officer at the AMC, told SciDev.Net. "It usually takes 10–15 years from the moment a vaccine is introduced in a developed country until it reaches developing countries."

The initiative has brought the cost of the Prevenar 13 pneumococcal vaccine down from US$108 per dose to $3.50, potentially saving the lives of 700,000 children worldwide by 2015. Nicaragua pays 30 cents per dose, and the rest is covered by the AMC. Each child requires four doses.

With $1.5 billion committed from donors, and another $1.3 billion from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance), the AMC has also forged an agreement with the pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have made a long-term commitment to supply 60 million doses of pneumococcal vaccines every year for the next decade.

"With Nicaragua we marked the start of a series of roll-outs," said Krawczyk. Guyana and Honduras are expected to be next, followed in 2011 by Congo, Kenya, Mali, Sierra Leone and Yemen. "We hope that we will have enough funding to help more than 40 countries by 2015."

But to meet its goal, the GAVI Alliance and its partners need a further US$3.7 billion over the next five years.

"We are in a fund-raising campaign," GAVI Alliance spokesperson Dan Thomas told SciDev.Net. "GAVI donors will meet in June 2011 to make firm commitments towards our shortfall."

Each year, pneumococcal disease kills about one million children worldwide, including 30,000 in Latin America. It causes one fifth of all deaths in children below the age of five in Nicaragua.

Pfizer launched the first pneumococcal vaccine, which protected against seven types of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, in 2000. The updated Prevenar 13 protects against six additional strains of bacteria, covering most pneumococcal infections, including those common in developing countries. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in February 2010.

The financing model was developed through collaboration between GAVI Alliance, the World Bank, WHO, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the governments of Canada, Italy, Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Link to GAVI Alliance fact sheet on AMC

See below for a GAVI Alliance video of the vaccine's launch in Nicaragua:

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