Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on the GAVI Vaccine Alliance not to pay huge subsidies to Big Pharma companies for pneumococcal vaccine
MSF demanded the GAVI to immediately stop paying out funds from a remaining US$262m subsidy to Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for the pneumococcal vaccine. “Pfizer and GSK have reaped more than their fair share of donor money for the pneumococcal vaccine, on top of the combined nearly US$50bn in sales they have made over the last 10 years from the vaccine, so it’s time for Gavi to stop this big pharma payout,” said Kate Elder, Senior Vaccines Policy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign. “Instead of lobbing more money at Pfizer and GSK, Gavi should start supporting countries to prepare for the alternative supplier that promises lower pneumococcal vaccine prices for all countries.”
Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, uses donor funds to pay for vaccines in the poorest countries. Recognising that newer vaccines often take more than a decade to reach developing countries after their introduction in high-income countries, in 2007 Gavi and six donors set up a special fund called the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to speed up the global rollout of the lifesaving pneumococcal vaccine in the poorest countries. This special fund, the AMC, also aimed to incentivise vaccine manufacturers to produce suitable and affordable versions of the pneumococcal vaccine. The donors pledged $1.5 billion in a special subsidy fund that is used to top up the base price of the pneumococcal vaccine charged by each company.
Pfizer and GSK charge Gavi roughly $9 for each child to be vaccinated in the poorest countries, and then receive a top up from the subsidy that amounts to each company being paid $21 per child in total. In middle-income countries that don’t qualify for Gavi support, Pfizer and GSK have charged as much as $80 per child (through UNICEF Supply Division) to be vaccinated, with the result that many such countries have not started using the vaccine at all.
So far, $1.2 billion has already been earned by pharmaceutical corporations Pfizer and GSK through the AMC, with $262 million remaining in the special fund. As the AMC fund was supposed to encourage new producers to enter the market and help bring prices down, MSF is calling on Gavi to reserve its remaining funds under the AMC for a new pneumococcal vaccine manufacturer offering a more affordable version in the near future.
The first alternative pneumococcal vaccine from an Indian manufacturer is expected to be available in the next few months and promises to be significantly less expensive than Pfizer and GSK’s products. The company has stated previously that they plan to sell the vaccine at about $6 per child to Gavi and the poorest countries, and for no more than about $11 in middle-income countries.