G7 unveils $1 billion vaccine plan

Group of Seven Finance Ministers kicked off a project on Saturday to subsidize production of new vaccines to stem the spread of fatal illnesses throughout the world’s poorest nations. Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, whose officials had drawn up the proposals, said the project had won approval at the G7 meeting in London. “We have had full approval for our plan on vaccines,” he told a news conference. A pilot project for the scheme is expected to cost the G7 wealthy nations about $1 billion and is aimed ultimately at financing the development of vaccinations to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The first step, though, is to draw up a pilot project on how to finance research into new vaccines. This will be presented to another G7 meeting in Washington next April. Initially, this pilot will focus on vaccines for other diseases such as gastro-enteritis, the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus, or pneumococcus which can trigger pneumonia and meningitis. The pilot product will opt to work on one of these diseases. That decision would be made at the end of the pilot project.

The development of vaccinations for such diseases is seen as a better test of the new scheme as researchers are closer to finding a treatment.The scheme, known as Advanced Market Commitments (AMCs), will be regulated by an independent assessment committee which will, among other things, decide if a newly-developed vaccine meets the required standards.The report drawn up by the Italian government said drug companies would have a greater incentive to invest in new vaccines once they are sure they will be able to sell them for a good price. Recipient nations would need to have the capacity to distribute the vaccines effectively. The report estimated that to produce a vaccine against malaria would take about 11 years and would require a total commitment of $4.5-5 billion in AMCs. For HIV/AIDS it could be 15 years and cost $5.5-6 billion.
A vaccine for Rotavirus and papillomavirus could take about two years to bring to market while it could take as many as 15 years to do so for something like tuberculosis, according to the Italian report.

December 20, 2005

Original web page at Reuters