Economic downturn threatens vaccination projects

The global economic downturn is now threatening the launch of new vaccination projects, according to the head of the UN-backed Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation.

Subsidies likely to be canceled or delayed to extend use of vaccines in the developing world include those against rubella, Japanese encephalitis, HPV and cholera.

"We urgently need an additional $2.6 billion to roll out these vaccines. If we do not [get it], children will die in large numbers unnecessarily," said Julian Lob-Levyt, the head of Gavi.

The board of Gavi will meet to discuss scaling down its plans against the estimated shortfall this week. In order to sustain its existing and planned programs, the agency will need $4.3 billion between now and 2015.

Some donors fear that the board did not adequately plan for future funding needs, with one funder saying that, "The board was large, and probably not historically very effective in dealing with these complex issues." The funder also stated that the shortfall would be treated "like a crisis."

The board may seek cost savings in the range of $500 to $700 million in order to maintain its plans. Also included will be a cut in its support to the World Health Organization in the sum of $50 million, as well as negotiations with pharmaceutical companies regarding vaccine prices and the request that wealthier countries make larger contributions.