Some of the world’s richest nations, through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations have pledged $200 million to purchase new-generation vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease to help children in the developing world.

GAVI officals, who noted that the two diseases kill an estimated 1.5 million children a year in the world’s poorest regions, said that the move represents a new era in efforts to cut the time it takes to deliver safe and effective new vaccines to poorer nations.

The funds come from 17 nations, the European Union, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the World Bank, as well as the vaccine industry itself, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and private donors.

The oral vaccines that will be supplied against rotavirus are RotaTeq, made by Merck & Co, and Rotarix, created by Avant Immunotherapeutics and licensed to GlaxoSmithKline. The pneumococcal vaccine is Prevnar from Wyeth and another such product, Streptorix, made by GSK Biologicals, is now in late-stage clinical development and is also expected to be available soon.

The introduction of the new vaccines will be staggered, GAVI said, with the rotavirus vaccine to be introduced intially in 13 countries in Eastern Europe as well as South and Central America, while the pneumococcal vaccine is destined for 10 countries in Africa and South Asia. Surveillance and monitoring systems are also being rolled-out and this progressive introduction will ensure there is time to complete ongoing and additional efficacy studies, GAVI noted.

Welcoming the move, GSK Biologicals issued a statement saying that “the GAVI eligible countries will benefit from our tiered pricing model which has been used for more than 20 years to ensure vaccines reach all those who need them.”