Key progress for our Vaccines for All campaign
Today, drug companies have announced reductions in vaccines prices for some of the world’s poorest children.
This is welcome progress in our vaccines for all campaign. But more still needs to be done before the all-important vaccines summit in London on 13 June.
GSK will drop the price of its vaccine against rotavirus – the leading cause of diarrhoea – to £1.50 ($2.50) or £3 ($5) to fully immunise a child – 67% the current lowest available price.
This follows its commitment last week that it will reinvest 20% of its profits in health care in the world’s poorest communities.
US giant Merck has said they will lower the price of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer – a leading killer of women in the developing world to £3.
Furthermore, manufacturers in India — the Serum Institute and Panacea Biotech — will lower the price of pentavalent vaccine.
This vaccine protects children from some of the biggest childhood killers — diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and Hepatitis B.
These are welcome announcements. The price of vaccines is one of the biggest barriers to getting these simple, life-saving technologies to the poorest children that need them most.
In particular, new vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal infection are prohibitively high and they can only be made available in the poorest countries if prices come down.
The Indian announcements also signal the growing role of emerging suppliers — a main plank of the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation’s (GAVI) strategy for increasing global immunisation coverage.
America’s Johnson and Johnson, and France’s Sanofi Pasteur have also said they will continue to sell pentavalent vaccines at the same low prices to the 16 countries that are expected to graduate from GAVI support.
Four hours to save four million
But some vaccines cost only a few pennies a dose to make, and in countries where spending on health per person is only a few pounds, even £3 may still be too expensive.
Next week, GAVI holds its Pledging Conference in London. In four hours GAVI will try and secure pledges from world leaders to raise the £4 billion needed to immunise 243 million children and save 4 million more lives each year by 2015.
Pharamaceutical companies will be at the table and they will be key. Money must be raised; vaccine prices must come down; steps must be taken to ensure greater equity so that vaccines reach the poorest and not just the better-off in society.
More health workers must also be deployed and re-numerated to actually deliver the vaccines.
Without significant voluntary reductions by the manufacturers, as well as innovative financing to reduce prices, GAVI’s ambitious plan for the next five years will simply not be achievable.
From the largest producer in the developed world, to the health ministry making decisions about immunisation budgets, right down to the village health worker delivering the vaccine in the remotest areas, everyone must play their part to ensure the most vulnerable children do not miss out on life-saving vaccines.