Reuters reported Wednesday that a group of wealthy countries including Italy, Britain, Canada and Norway will announce in Rome on Friday a $1.5 billion advance market commitment to purchase vaccines to prevent pneumococcus, which kills more than a than a million kids each year in the developing world, through illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis. The report quoted the Italian economics ministry as saying that the program "aimed at saving millions of lives in the poorest countries and supporting their economic growth with new methods."
This is great news for the millions of kids who would otherwise contract this deadly disease. A pneumococcus vaccine is already available in the U.S., but at $60 per dose, and with three doses needed for immunization, the costs are prohibitive for poor countries. The advance market commitment will create incentives for private firms to adapt the vaccine for the strains of the disease that are common in developing countries, and to scale up production to meet the needs of the developing world.
I'm proud to say that CGD helped to lay the ground work for this path-breaking initiative. My colleague, senior fellow and director of programs Ruth Levine and non-resident fellow Michael Kremer convened and co-chaired a working group (along with the Vaccine Fund's Alice Albright) that investigated whether and how to make the concept of an advance market commitment a reality. In 2005 CGD published Making Markets for Vaccines: Ideas to Action which inspired the pilot that will be announced on Friday in Rome. The AMC for pneumo represents extraordinary efforts by a very large number of people and institutions, many of whom were first brought together to work on the AMC design in the CGD working group. For us it's a very gratifying example of using research to inform and affect policy.
This is a big deal for the development community, and for the millions of kids whose lives will be saved as a result. I'll be watching eagerly on Friday for the official announcement from Rome. And I'll be hoping that similar committments will soon be offered for vaccines to prevent other killer diseases, such as HIV, TB and malaria.
Update: For more details, see GAVI's new AMC website.