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Pneumococcal Vaccine Officially Rolled Out In Kenya

“Kenya on Monday became the first African country to introduce a routine vaccine against pneumococcal disease, which claims the lives of more than half a million children under five each year,” Deutsche Presse Agentur/The Hindu reports. The GAVI Alliance, which is supporting the vaccine’s roll out, “is aiming to introduce the vaccine to 19 developing countries – including Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen and Sierra Leone – within a year and hopes to reach more than 40 nations by 2015, depending on funding.” GAVI said it is in need of an additional “$3.7 billion dollars over the next five years to fund immunisation programmes in impoverished countries” (2/14).

Kenya received the “pneumococcal vaccines through the innovative financing mechanism known as the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which is designed to bring heavily discounted vaccines to children living in the world’s poorest countries,” according to a press release by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the maker of the vaccine being distributed. “GSK’s Synflorix … provides protection against 10 strains of the pneumococcus bacteria that are responsible for the large majority of pneumococcal disease in Kenya and worldwide,” the release states (2/11).

“Pneumococcal disease, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, kills more than half a million children under the age of five every year – more than malaria, AIDS and measles combined. More than 70% of the deaths are in developing countries,” Nature News reports. “Vaccines for pneumococcal disease have been available in the developed world for about 10 years, but are neither affordable nor suitable for the strains of the disease that are prevalent in developing countries,” the news service writes in an article that examines how the AMC agreement negotiated by GAVI Alliance helped to stimulate the pneumococcal vaccine market (Mayar, 2/11).

On Monday, during a commemoration ceremony, “Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki joined parents, health workers, ambassadors and donors in Nairobi to witness children being immunised as part of the Government of Kenya’s formal introduction of pneumococcal vaccine in its routine immunisation programme for all children,” according to a press release by GAVI Alliance (2/14).

Capital News writes that Kenya’s Director of Public Health Shahnaaz Sharif told reporters on Friday that the vaccine will be administered to children under 12 months and “would be available free of charge in all government health facilities” (Karong’o, 2/11). Nature News elaborates on the pricing on the pneumococcal vaccine for developing countries. “Across the developing world, the pneumococcal vaccine will have a ceiling price of US$3.50 per dose. …  Much of the small cost of the vaccine in developing countries will also be absorbed by the GAVI Alliance, explains Marina Krawczyk, who heads the AMC project for GAVI.” According to Krawczyk, currently, “most governments are paying around 15–30 cents per dose, but that will increase over time.”

In total, “[t]he developed world requires a total of 40 million doses of the pneumococcal vaccine per year, and the developing world requires another 250 million doses, sa[id] Orin Levine [head of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health],” according to Nature News. In addition to GSK’s and Pfizer’s commitment of “30 million doses per year for the next ten years. The Serum Institute and Panacea Biotec, both based in India, have also registered to provide the vaccine and are awaiting approval, according to Krawczyk” (2/11).

Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal provides a breakdown of the vaccine roll out in Kenya, noting that the country “began administering immunizations in early January with Synflorix, which is supplied in a two-dose presentation to help developing countries optimize their storage and transport space.” Kenya also “rolled out a comprehensive training program to prepare its healthcare workers and clinics to administer the vaccine alongside the traditional immunizations Kenyan children already receive,” according to the news service (2/11).

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