Several drug firms have agreed a landmark deal to supply up to 200 million doses a year of cut-price pneumococcal vaccines to developing nations, according to the global immunisation alliance that is overseeing the deal.
Leading manufacturers of such vaccines include GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.
The agreement is the first under a new scheme called an Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which provides a guaranteed market for vaccines supplied to poor nations but sets a maximum price that drugmakers can expect to receive.
It is likely to pave the way for future deals on recently introduced vaccines against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhoea, and an experimental one against malaria, which combined kill millions in poor countries each year.
The GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation) said details of the pneumococcal deal would be announced in the coming weeks.
"Decisions have been made and we are hoping for an announcement very shortly -- in the next couple of weeks," GAVI's deputy chief executive officer Helen Evans told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
"It's very exciting news because they are going to make long-term commitments."
Pneumococcal disease is one of the world's biggest killers of children, claiming up to 1.6 million lives each year. Africa and Asia together account for 95% of all deaths from pneumococcal disease, which causes serious illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis.
Glaxo's pneumococcal vaccine, called Synflorix, protects against 10 strains of the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria which cause the disease. It was approved late last year by the World Health Organisation for use in developing countries.
Pfizer's Prevnar 13 shot protects against 13 strains and won the approval of US regulators earlier this month.
Source: News Center