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By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) - The GAVI global vaccine alliance has earmarked $85 million (£62.8 million) to help support the introduction of typhoid vaccines in poor countries where millions of children are at risk of the often deadly disease.
The funds, agreed by GAVI at a meeting on Thursday, will go towards bulk-buying of new typhoid vaccines including one developed by privately-held Bharat Biotech, the alliance said in a statement.
Typhoid shots from five other drugmakers are also under development and expected to be available between 2018 and 2022. GAVI said it expects the first countries to apply for the vaccine next year, with the aim of starting to roll it out in 2019 for children over the age of 6 months.
GAVI, which is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF, donor governments and others, funds bulk-buy vaccination programmes for poorer nations that can't afford shots at developed-economy prices.
Typhoid is a serious fever caused by consuming contaminated food or water. It affects between 12 and 20 million people worldwide in regions where water quality and sanitation are low, particularly in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Around 1 in 100 cases is deadly, and about 3 percent of those infected become chronic carriers of the disease. Global health experts say it killed more than 128,000 people in 2016.
"This vaccine will be a lifesaver for millions of children, especially those living without access to clean water or sanitation," said the chair of GAVI's board, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
While typhoid is a bacterial disease that can be treated with antibiotics, access to antibiotics in poorer regions is sometimes limited, and the typhoid bug's resistance to them is on the rise.
GAVI's chief executive Seth Berkley said the growing spread of drug resistant strains of typhoid posed a major threat, to which a vaccine could offer an important defence.
"Strong (vaccine) coverage through routine immunisation together with efforts to improve access to clean water and hygiene will play a key role in dramatically reducing the disease," he said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Peter Graff)