Pneumonia is the biggest single killer of children, claiming the life of a child every 39 seconds

The Serum Institute of India will provide ten million doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which helps to prevent severe pneumonia, every year to lower-income countries for the next decade under a new supply agreement with the UNICEF that helped dramatically decreased the price of pneumonia vaccine for those nations.

“Pneumonia is the biggest single killer of children, claiming the life of a child every 39 seconds. By being able to provide this quality-assured pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at such an affordable price, we can save millions of children's lives,” Director of UNICEF's supply and procurement headquarters Etleva Kadilli said.

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India is a leading manufacturer of immunobiological drugs, including vaccines.

“Our innovative approach has incentivised industry to bring this vaccine at scale to the market. The result means more countries – including middle-income countries – that have not yet introduced this vaccine into their routine immunisation due to previously prohibitive pricing, will have an affordable option to accelerate access for all children," Kadilli said.

The supply agreement is the 8th to take place under the Vaccine Alliance's AMC mechanism, and the first to include a developing country manufacturer.

The new price represents a 43 per cent reduction from the Gavi price of USD 3.50 at the start of the Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

Under the agreement, the Indian company will provide 10 million PCV doses to Gavi-supported countries each year for the next ten years.

The pneumococcus bacterium is the leading cause of severe pneumonia and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Most of these deaths occur in lower-income countries and include a disproportionate number of children under the age of two, UNICEF said.

Gavi's Managing Director for Resource Mobilisation, Private Sector Partnerships & Innovative Finance Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao said the successful mechanism will now be used as a model to help ensure the world's poorest countries get access to COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as the wealthiest, making it integral to the global effort to defeat this pandemic.

The AMC, which is set to end this year, was launched by Gavi in 2009 – with the support of donors Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – to “solve a clear example of market failure: complex vaccines like PCV would normally reach low-income countries, where the disease burden is often highest, ten to 15 years after their introduction in industrialised countries.”

The PCV vaccine has now been introduced in 60 lower-income countries, where coverage rates, at 48 per cent, are now higher than the global average of 47 per cent.

Estimates indicate that more than 225 million children will have been vaccinated, and that over 700,000 deaths will have been prevented by the end of 2020.

With the new supply agreement, AMC will be closing this year having facilitated the entry of the new manufacturer to the market as well as a record-setting low price for Gavi-supported countries that will result in an estimated millions of dollars in savings for both Gavi and lower income countries' vaccine budgets, the UNICEF said.

Gavi's Managing Director for Vaccines and Sustainability Aurelia Nguyen said due to the “visionary model”, there is a healthy PCV market that is producing enough vaccines to supply both rich and poor countries and, as a result, hundreds of millions of children are now protected against one of the world's deadliest diseases.

At last week's Global Vaccine Summit, Gavi launched the Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (Gavi Covax AMC), a new financing instrument aimed at incentivising vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines, and to ensure access for developing countries.