The price of a major pneumonia vaccine has dropped dramatically, from $3.50 to $2 per dose, in low-income countries thanks to a new supply agreement between UNICEF and the Serum Institute of India, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, announced Tuesday.
The Serum Institute of India, a biotech company that manufactures vaccines, will provide 10 million doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) to Gavi-supported countries every year for the next 10 years, according to UNICEF.
Gavi, which launched in 2000 to help increase access to vaccines worldwide and to improve global health security, has saved more than 13 million lives across 73 countries so far.
“This is fantastic news, which will make this highly effective, lifesaving vaccine even more affordable for the world’s poorest countries,” Aurelia Nguyen, Gavi’s managing director for vaccines and sustainability, said in a press release.
Pneumonia is a major threat to children’s health, taking the lives of more children than any other infectious disease, according to UNICEF. The disease kills over 800,000 children under 5 years old every year — around 2,200 every day, including over 153,000 newborn children.
“Pneumonia is the biggest single killer of children, claiming the life of a child every 39 seconds,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply and procurement headquarters, said in a press release. “By being able to provide this quality-assured pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at such an affordable price, we can save millions of children’s lives.”
Pneumonia is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization, where poverty and other factors put children even more at risk.
In Nigeria, 1.4 million children under 5 years old are projected to die of pneumonia over the next decade, and in India, over 882,000 children under 5 are projected to die from pneumonia over the next decade, according to Save the Children.
Vaccines are an essential part of ensuring public health, yet vaccine access remains unequal worldwide. In 2018, 20 million children reportedly missed out on lifesaving vaccines.