The international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has welcomed pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s to follow an earlier GSK decision to lower the price of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) for children caught in humanitarian emergencies.
For seven years, MSF urged Pfizer and GSK – the only two manufacturers producing the pneumonia vaccine – to offer the lowest global price to humanitarian organisations, but they refused until September, when GSK announced that it was finally reducing the price of its pneumonia vaccine for humanitarian situations.
“It’s good to see that Pfizer is now finally reducing the price of its life-saving vaccine for children in emergencies,” says Dr Joanne Liu, MSF’s international president. “With Pfizer and GSK’s price reductions, humanitarian organisations will be better able to protect children against this deadly disease.”
Pneumonia is the leading cause of child mortality worldwide, killing nearly 1m children every year. Crisis-affected children, such as those caught up in conflict or in humanitarian emergencies, are particularly susceptible to pneumonia.
MSF medical teams often see the deadly effects of pneumonia – a vaccine-preventable disease – in the vulnerable children treated in our health facilities.
The price reductions are a significant step forward in protecting vulnerable children who are reached by humanitarian organisations like MSF. From 2009 to 2014, MSF conducted negotiations with Pfizer and GSK to access a fair and sustainable price for the pneumonia vaccine, before making a notable exception to our policy governing donations from pharmaceutical companies.
In agreeing to the limited-term donations, both Pfizer and GSK assured MSF that they would work on a longer-term solution to improve affordability.
Since then, in absence of such a solution, MSF and other humanitarian organisations struggled to purchase pneumonia vaccines at an affordable price; earlier this year, MSF paid €60 ($68.10) for one dose of the Pfizer product to vaccinate refugee children in Greece – 20 times more than the lowest price offered by GSK and Pfizer.
One-third of the world’s countries have not been able to introduce PCV because of its high price. Millions of children living in countries such as Jordan, Thailand, and the Philippines are left out.
In 2015, all 193 countries at the World Health Assembly passed a landmark resolution demanding more affordable vaccines and increased transparency of vaccine prices. “Both Pfizer and GSK should now redouble efforts to reduce the price of the vaccine for the many developing countries that still can’t afford to protect their children against pneumonia,” said Liu.
Pfizer’s announcement indicated that the price reduction was a new and specific pricing tier for civil society organisations (CSOs) including MSF. We now hope that Pfizer will extend its price reduction efforts to all developing countries and accelerate the registration process to rapidly increase access to the pneumonia vaccine for all who need it.
Reuters Health reports that in what it called a major expansion of its humanitarian assistance work, the drugmaker said its Prevenar 13 shot, which protects babies and children against pneumonia and other diseases, would be offered in a new multi-dose vial at the lowest prevailing global price, currently $3.10 per dose. “In addition, given the acute need for aid on the ground, Pfizer will donate all sales proceeds for the first year of this programme to humanitarian groups undertaking the difficult work of reaching vulnerable populations in emergency settings,” the company said in a statement.
The report says the move follows a similar one by the British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, which said in September it would cut the price of its pneumococcal vaccine, Synflorix, to $3.05 when it is used in humanitarian crises.
The World Health Organisation said last month it was seeking to establish an emergency vaccine supply system aimed at getting vital shots to vulnerable people in crises such as wars or natural disasters.