Rich nations contribute $200 million for vaccine program

GAVINEW YORK - Some of the wealthy nations of the world are collectively donating $200 million to a project to fight diseases in poor countries.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), which has brought these nations together on a common platform, said Wednesday the fund will be used to help the poor countries around the world to receive vaccines that prevent diseases like rotavirus and pneumococcus in a timely manner.

The plan is to supply newly-licensed vaccines for preventable diseases to the developing nations avoiding the usual delay for these vaccines to reach these countries where these are required most.

GAVI's executive secretary Julian Lob-Levyt said the aim is to move quickly to save the lives of as many children as possible with the vaccines that are available.

GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co. are making the rotavirus vaccines, while the pneumococcal vaccine is being manufactured by Wyeth.

GAVI is funded by 16 countries, the European Union, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and several private donors. It quoted WHO statistics to say 1.5 million children die each year in the world's poorest regions from the diseases.

It intends to start with the rotavirus vaccine in 13 countries in Eastern European and South and Central America. The pneumococcal vaccine will be made available in some 10 countries in Africa and South Asia.

GAVI will extend its operations to other parts of the world as new vaccines are developed.

It may be possible to save five million lives over the next 20 years, resulting from the step taken today, said Dr Orin Levine, director of the project to distribute the pneumonia vaccine.