A pioneering scheme to tap capital markets for funds for life-saving vaccines has picked Japan for its next offer of bonds that have already been bought by rock stars and even Pope Benedict XVI.
The International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) will offer its "vaccine bonds" to Japanese investors next month as part of efforts to unlock long-term donor pledges of four billion dollars, officials said Wednesday.
The offer follows a first foray into the capital markets in London in November 2006 that raised one billion dollars from investors including religious leaders and rockers-turned-activists Bono and Bob Geldof.
The initiative, launched in September 2005 by Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden, aims to immunise 500 million additional people against preventable diseases in 70 of the world's poorest countries by 2015.
"There is no value immunising a child in 2015 -- when funds might become available -- if that child is going to die of disease this year," said IFFIm chairman Alan Gillespie.
"We estimate that this intervention will save five million child deaths and more than five million future adult deaths," he told potential investors at a packed seminar in Tokyo.
The funds will be used to support the work of the GAVI Alliance, which is backed by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and vaccine manufacturers.
Japanese people have long prided themselves as being among the world's most avid savers, and foreign currency denominated bonds are becoming increasingly popular amid rock-bottom domestic interest rates.
The AAA-rated IFFIm bonds, which will be denominated in South African rand, are being offered by Daiwa Securities Group.
The size of the bond issue and the coupon have not yet been announced. The money will be repaid using future government aid payments.
Since its launch, Norway and South Africa have also joined the IFFIm donor list and Brazil has announced plans to sign up.