Two factors have turned the industry around. One is an increasing demand for vaccines in developing countries. This is partly due to greater prosperity in the growing economies of China and India but also because vaccination is being vigorously promoted by various organisations as a route to economic development. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which campaigns for greater access to vaccines in developing countries, has created a booming market for vaccines in developing nations partly by persuading governments to pool resources and make advance purchase commitments. This helps bring prices to an affordable level for developing countries while still making it profitable for the manufacturers. As a result, vaccine makers are now working on widespread, previously neglected diseases, such as malaria.
Research is also driving the boom in vaccines, bringing a better understanding of pathogens and immune reactions to them, as well as diversifying the jobs available in this area.
This “Advance Market Commitment”, launched in Rome on 9 February, has so far received $1.5 billion in donations from Canada, Italy, Norway, the UK, Russia and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to spur the development of new vaccines for pneumonia and meningitis caused by the pneumococcus bacterium.