Doctors without Borders calls to slash pneumo vaccine price in poor countries

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Doctors Without Borders (also MSF) has called on pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer to slash the price of the pneumococcal vaccine to US$5 per child in poor countries.

The call comes as MSF releases the second edition of its vaccine pricing report, ‘The Right Shot: Bringing Down Barriers to Affordable and Adapted Vaccines’. Many parts of the world are unable to afford new high-priced vaccines like that against pneumococcal disease, which kills about one million children each year.

‘The price to fully vaccinate a child is 68 times more expensive than it was just over a decade ago, mainly because a handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries,’ said Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy and Analysis for MSF’s Access Campaign. ‘We think it’s time for GSK and Pfizer to do their part to make vaccines more affordable for countries in the long-term, because the discounts the companies are offering today are just not good enough.’

The pneumococcal vaccine alone accounts for about 45% of the total cost to vaccinate a child today in the poorest countries (the full package includes protection against 12 diseases). GSK and Pfizer have collectively reported over $19 billion in sales globally for the pneumococcal vaccine since its launch.

MSF is urging GSK and Pfizer to reduce the vaccine price, which is inclusive of all three doses. This is only slightly less than the $6 price target ($2/dose) announced by the Indian manufacturer Serum Institute for a version it plans to bring to market in the next few years.

MSF’s report – one of the only sources of comparative pricing on vaccines available – shows the secretive vaccine industry and the striking lack of data on vaccine prices. Country health budgets are stretched by high prices because there is limited information to inform negotiations with companies, industry purposely conceals prices, there is a lack of market competition, and pharmaceutical companies charge wildly different prices in different markets for the same product.

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