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UNICEF: Vaccine Price Drop Will Save Millions of Child Lives

FILE - Health official administers a polio vaccine to a child in Kawo Kano, Nigeria.
FILE - Health official administers a polio vaccine to a child in Kawo Kano, Nigeria.

The U.N. Children’s Fund reports a steep drop in the price of a crucial childhood vaccine will prevent millions of deaths in dozens of the world’s poorest countries.

The U.N. children’s fund reports 1.5 million children under five die each year from illnesses preventable by vaccines. Thanks to a breakthrough deal with six pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of a pentavalent vaccine many of these deaths will be averted.

Director of UNICEF’s supply and procurement headquarters, Shanelle Hall, says it has taken 16 years to bring down the price of the vaccine.

“From next year through 2019, we will be able to procure this pentavalent vaccine, which protects children against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza B for less than one dollar a dose, and that is half the price that we pay this year, this month, this week,” she said.

Hall says that averages out to 84 cents a dose. She says 90 percent of the world’s children under five who die from vaccine-preventable diseases live in countries where vaccines are not fully funded by donors. She says the lower vaccine cost will make a difference between life and death.

“This price decrease will generate a savings of over $366 million for donors and governments who finance the vaccine," she said. "And, it is important for access and also for pressures on national budgets.”

The vaccine alliance GAVI funds immunization programs in developing countries. It estimates 5.7 million fewer children will die between 2011 and 2020 in 80 countries that will procure these cheap vaccines.

Hall says by 2020 donors will pay less as national budgets increasingly cover the cost of the pentavalent vaccines themselves.