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[NEW DELHI] The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) has appealed to international donors and national governments to increase funding for vaccine research and development and to expand immunisation programmes in developing countries.

The appeal was made at the end a three-day meeting last week (9 December), during which GAVI took stock of its first phase of activities, which ends this month, and planned strategies for its second phase from 2006 to 2010.

GAVI also announced a new funding initiative for 2006, which is expected to raise US$4 billion over the next 10 years, and will encourage developing countries to introduce four more vaccines to their national immunisation programmes.

The vaccines are against haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcal disease that causes pneumonia and meningitis, rotavirus that causes severe diarrhoea, and Japanese encephalitis. Together, these diseases kill about two million children each year.

GAVI's universal immunisation programme already supplies vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and pertusis, polio and hepatitis B.

Most of the vaccines are made by multinational pharmaceutical companies, but GAVI and many developing countries are looking towards India to supply low-cost vaccines.

Already, a genetically-engineered Indian hepatitis B vaccine costing just US$0.40 forms almost 40 per cent of UNICEF's supply and is available in over 50 countries.

"India is poised to emerge as a global supplier," says Julie Jacobson, from Seattle-based non-government organisation PATH.

GAVI is a public-private partnership launched in 2000 to give children better access to vaccines.