Five countries, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have launched the first Advance Market Commitment (AMC) with the help of the World Bank, and committed $1.5 billion to get new vaccines to the world’s poorest nations.

The pilot scheme, which was launched in Rome, will target pneumococcal disease and is aimed at getting potentially life-saving vaccines more quickly to 100 million children and preventing over five million deaths by 2030. By guaranteeing the size of the purchase commitment through giving the poor countries the necessary funding, AMCs are meant to give vaccine makers the confidence to develop new treatments, and to build enough production capacity to satisfy global demand.

Financial commitments to the pneumococcal AMC have so far been made by Italy ($635 million), Britain ($485 million), Canada ($200 million), Russia ($80 million), Norway ($50 million) and the Gates Foundation ($50 million).

The initiative was welcomed by Wyeth, which sells the only pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, Prevenar, and its chief operating officer Bernard Poussot said that "this financial pledge brings much-needed attention to the global burden of pneumococcal disease." GlaxoSmithKline, which is looking to file its own pneumococcal vaccine candidate Synflorix (formerly known as Streptorix) in Europe this year, described this "innovative financing mechanism" as a huge step forward and Jean Stéphenne, president of GSK Biologicals, said “it sets the stage for a ‘win-win’ situation: for donor countries, for vaccine manufacturers and, most of all, for the world's children." He added that “we look forward to working with the World Bank and donor governments on the details of the plan."

The AMC noted that worldwide, more than 10 million children under five die every year, and a quarter of these deaths are caused by diseases “that are, or soon will be, vaccine-preventable,” including measles, polio, diphtheria and hepatitis. It added that just 10% of the more than $100 billion spent globally each year on health research is devoted to diseases responsible for 90% of the world’s health problems and “only 16 of the 1,400 new medicines developed between 1975 and 1999 were for these neglected diseases.”