Geneva-based Gavi Alliance, which runs immunisation and vaccination programmes, wants to tap funding from Arabian Gulf countries to help prevent the spread of disease.
"Viruses move and people move, so a strong immunisation system is important worldwide," said Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi Alliance, on the sidelines of the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
"The support from the region has been relatively modest," he said apart from US$33 million given as a private donation in 2011 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Gavi does not operate programmes in the Gulf as it has a ceiling of $15,500 for gross per capita national income for countries where it can work.
As a result, wealthy Gulf nations do not qualify.
But "between now and 2020, we expect to invest $7 billion in [Organisation of Islamic Conference] countries", Mr Berkley said. That includes most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, he added.
Gavi, whose annual budget is about $2bn, is most heavily invested in Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Mali and Indonesia as well as Yemen, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia. In Pakistan, it has invested $700m since the organisation's inception in 2000.
The Abu Dhabi summit focused on the eradication of polio, a viral infection that can lead to paralysis. Because of effective vaccines, the disease has been mostly eliminated in the western world, but still plagues Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and other places in Africa and Asia.
On Wednesday, Gavi rolled out its pentavalent vaccine, a combination of five vaccines in one against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type B, in Somalia, the 71st country to receive the vaccine. It will be used to immunise children less than one year old.
Epidemic meningitis remains an issue in North Africa, Mr Berkley said.
This is of particular concern to Saudi Arabia because of the number of visitors from there during Haj. Wild poliovirus has re-emerged in Egypt, although it has not caused any new polio infections, Mr Berkley said.
There are no local vaccine manufacturers in the UAE or the Gulf.
The vaccine market in the region mirrors the global scene, which is dominated by a handful of players such as Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Novartis. Vaccines represent less than 2 per cent of the world pharmaceutical market, according to the World Health Organization.
Among the reasons for that are the high cost to develop and manufacture vaccines and the stringent quality control such a facility needs to follow.
Vaccine coverage in Gulf is adequate, and the challenge is to make sure that new vaccines are rolled out "but they have the infrastructure to do so", Mr Berkley said of the countries in the region.
He does not see a correlation between having a local manufacturing sector and increased accessibility to vaccines.
Absence of local manufacturing "is not a concern for me", he said. "It is a policy issue whether countries or regions feel is an important priority."
Gavi works with 10 suppliers, including GSK and Pfizer from Europe, Brazil's Bio-Manguinhos, and Serum Institute of India and Biological E of India.
Local manufacturing does not mean lower prices for vaccines given the complexities of vaccine manufacturing, Mr Berkley said.
The rising cost of vaccines is still a major concern for poorer countries and places where health insurance does not cover their costs.
"Urgent action is needed to address the skyrocketing price to vaccinate a child, which has risen by 2,700 per cent over the last decade," said Manica Balasegaram, executive director of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières' Access Campaign, in a statement on the eve of the summit.