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Glaxo, Merck Support Effort to Boost Vaccine Access

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(Corrects name of vaccine in fifth paragraph.)

June 6 (Bloomberg) -- GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Merck & Co. agreed to lower prices for vaccines to protect children against potentially deadly diarrhea, supporting an international effort to help least-developed nations fight diseases.

The GAVI Alliance, set up by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates to give the world’s poorest people better access to life-saving immunizations, also received commitments from India-based drugmakers Serum Institute of India Ltd. and Panacea Biotec Ltd. to cut the price of a key pediatric vaccine, it said today.

The agreements will help the alliance prevent an extra 4 million deaths by 2015 by rolling out new vaccines to tackle the main killers of children: pneumonia and diarrhea. The Geneva-based group’s donors and partners are meeting in London next week as they seek $3.7 billion to expand immunization programs over the next five years.

“Ensuring full funding for GAVI’s goals is essential to meeting our public health commitment to all children,” said Julie L. Gerberding, president of Merck Vaccines, in a statement. “The upcoming GAVI conference, and the commitments highlighted today by so many, are critical steps toward advancing access to vaccines in developing countries.”

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, will offer RotaTeq, its oral vaccine for rotavirus, to the United Nations Children’s Fund, a GAVI Alliance partner, at $5 a dose. The price will drop to $3.50 once the volume bought reaches 30 million doses. Merck will offer its Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine to the GAVI Alliance at $5 a dose for certain developing countries, it said.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc, based in London, offered to sell its rotavirus vaccine at $2.50 per dose, or $5 to fully immunize a child, a 67 percent reduction in the current lowest available public price, GAVI said in a separate statement.

Bill Gates

The GAVI Alliance comprises governments of developing and donor countries, the World Health Organization, Unicef, the World Bank, vaccine makers, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

“We’re particularly excited about the offers for rotavirus vaccine because the shock of learning that more than 500,000 children die from a preventable disease that causes severe diarrhea is what drew us to work in global health in the first place,” Bill and Melinda Gates said in a separate statement. “With these offers, GAVI will be able to make even greater use of donor commitments, now and in the future, to significantly increase the number of children it can protect from deadly yet preventable diseases.”

Deadly Diarrhea

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea -- the world’s biggest killer of children after pneumonia.

Bharat Biotech, the Serum Institute and Shantha Biotechnics, a subsidiary of Paris-based Sanofi, are developing rotavirus vaccines for GAVI-eligible countries, the alliance said. Vaccines from these suppliers aren’t expected to be ready for purchase through Unicef for about four more years. Bharat Biotech may offer further price reductions and lower the cost of immunizing a child to $3, according to GAVI.

The Serum Institute reduced prices for the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five fatal diseases, to $1.75 a dose -- the lowest available, GAVI said. Panacea Biotec said it would cut prices for the same shot by as much as 15 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Blanche Gatt in London at; Jason Gale in Singapore at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at; Jason Gale at

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