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"By getting access to these prices, buyers will be able to take advantage of the increasing capacity of emerging countries to develop and produce quality vaccines at significantly lower costs," he said in a statement.
He added that GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, "should flex its purchasing muscles to encourage manufacturers" to produce vaccines that don't require refrigeration and can be administered through patches or liquids, rather than needles.
GAVI, which is supported by contributions from developed nations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the primary funder of vaccines purchased by UNICEF. Helen Evans, interim CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said in a joint statement with UNICEF that GAVI "strongly believes in timely, transparent and accurate information on pricing."
Many of the largest global pharmaceutical companies -- most recently Johnson & Johnson -- have jumped into the vaccine business in recent years to diversify revenue as many of their blockbuster pills are facing generic competition. Vaccines are all but immune from generic competition in developed countries, and some newer shots, such as Pfizer Inc.'s Prevnar pneumococcal vaccine, now bring in billions of dollars in revenue each year.
Those big companies are looking to less-developed countries for future sales growth, and vaccines against crippling and deadly childhood diseases are cost-effective purchases for countries with small health budgets.
AIDS groups and advocates for affordable health care in developing countries have campaigned for years for big pharmaceutical companies to sell their patented medicines to those countries at drastically reduced prices, or to allow generic drug makers in countries such as India to do so. They've had some success, so UNICEF's new price plan is a logical strategy.
UNICEF's Hall said the organization hopes to expand the transparency initiative to other essential products that it buys for children. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, and quality basic education for boys and girls across the globe.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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