Vaccines have saved millions of lives around the world in the last fifty years. Because they are low cost, reliable, and easy to deliver, vaccines are one of the most cost effective ways of enhancing health and of reducing poverty.
Remarkably, a standard package of vaccines reaches three quarters of the world’s children, protecting them against serious childhood diseases such as polio, whooping cough and diphtheria. These vaccines save 3 million lives a year, and prevent long-term disability and illness in millions more.
Although poor countries have benefited from vaccines originally developed for the rich world, there are as of yet no vaccines for some of today’s biggest killers—such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. The 5 million people who die each year of these diseases, almost all of whom are in poor countries, cannot afford to buy medicines. Furthermore, developing countries cannot afford to buy many existing vaccines (such as for hepatitis and pneumonia)—which results in more than 3 million people dying each year of diseases that can be prevented with existing vaccines.
New medicines are usually financed by a mixture of public funding by governments, philanthropic giving, and investment by private firms. Private investment is especially important in paying for and managing the later stages of clinical trials, regulatory approval, and investment in manufacturing capacity. But for diseases that mainly affect people in developing countries, the prospective sales market is tiny—and not sufficient to justify commercially the large scale investment that is needed to develop new products.
An advance market commitment to accelerate the development of vaccines for diseases concentrated in developing countries, donors could make a binding commitment to pay for a desired vaccine if and when it is developed. This advance market commitment would mean firms could invest in finding a vaccine with the confidence that if they succeed there would be a market for the product.
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