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Randi Hernandez was science editor at BioPharm International from September 2014 to May 2017.
The pharmaceutical manufacturer pledged to freeze vaccine prices for Gavi-eligible countries for a decade.
In an effort to continue to ensure the existence of sustainable vaccination programs in developing countries, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced on Jan. 26, 2015 that it will freeze vaccine prices for Gavi-eligible countries for up to 10 years after the country graduates from Gavi support. Importantly, GSK also said it would pass on any manufacturing efficiencies that reduce the cost of vaccine production.
Gavi is a vaccine alliance that seeks to create access to vaccines for children living in impoverished areas by gathering assistance from members of the private and public sectors. From 2016, 22 countries with growing economies will begin to graduate from Gavi support.
As one of the largest contributors of vaccines to Gavi, GSK has help Gavi in its mission to vaccinate children against diseases such as hepatitis B, measles, rubella, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, and polio. In 2013, GSK delivered 862 million vaccine doses; more than 80% of these were used in developing countries.
"Four of every five of GSK’s vaccines are provided to developing countries at a substantial discount to western prices," said Luc Debruyne, president of Vaccines, GSK, in a statement. "We offer our lowest prices to Gavi, which can be as little as a tenth of developed world prices. At these levels, we are able to just cover our costs, which is key to making our Gavi offer sustainable."
Gavi's goal is to raise $7.5 billion from donors at a major funding conference in Berlin to pay for increased deployment of vaccines in the developing world between 2016 and 2020. The organization is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank.
On the same day as GSK’s announcement, Pfizer announced it will cut the price of its pneumococcal vaccine Prevenar 13 by 6% to $3.10 per dose in support of the Gavi global vaccines alliance (vaccination requires three doses, so complete vaccination would be little more than $9 per child). Sanofi also vowed to expand production of yellow fever vaccine to address chronic shortages. As of Jan. 26, 2015, Bloombergreported Gavi has managed to raise more than 75% of its $7.5 billion target.
While noble, organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) argued that the price cuts are inadequate and urged the pharmaceutical companies to do more. The price should be lowered to at least $5 per child, the organization said. “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, in a statement.