UNICEF clinches vaccine deal to protect children from five diseases

NEW YORK CITY: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday it had reached an agreement with six vaccine suppliers to provide a combined vaccine against five deadly childhood diseases for half the price it currently pays.

An estimated 5.7 million deaths a year could be averted under the deal to send 450 million doses to 80 countries between 2017-2020, the agency added.

“We will be able to procure pentavalent vaccine to protect children … for less than $1 a dose,” Shanelle Hall, director of UNICEF’s supply and procurement division, told a news briefing.

The vaccine, a cornerstone of routine immunisation programmes, will protect children from five major infections in one shot: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type b known as Hib – a bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis.

The six suppliers were named as: Biology E, Jenssen, LG Life Sciences (068870.KS), Panacea Biotec Ltd (PNCA.NS), Serum Institute of India, and Shantha Biotechs.

The deal, which took 16 years to reach, will bring down the average price to 85 cents a dose, half the amount that UNICEF currently pays, generating savings for donors and governments.

It took time to expand a base of vaccine suppliers, which will reduce the risk of shortages, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance said in a statement. GAVI and the Gates Foundation joined UNICEF in securing the multi-year suppliers’ contract.