Cost of vaccines becoming unaffordable in developing countries, charity warns

The cost of vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization has gone up 68-fold over the past 13 years, according to international aid charity Médecins sans Frontières.


The cost of vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for developing countries has increased by 68%, warns Médecins sans Frontières (MSF)

The number of diseases a child can be immunised against has doubled in the past 13 years, but the cost of vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) has gone up 68-fold, warns the international aid charity Médecins sans Frontières (MSF).

In 2001, WHO’s childhood immunisation schedule included vaccinations against six diseases which cost US$0.67. By 2014, the number of diseases included in the WHO programme had increased to 12 but the total cost of the vaccines had risen to between US$32.09 and US$45.59 — a 68-fold increase, the MSF calculates.

The actual costs may be even higher as the figures used by MSF were based on the lowest available price of vaccines for a selected number of developing countries that are eligible for a financial subsidy from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), a public-private partnership, to offset the cost of the products.

In countries where governments individually negotiate with drug manufacturers, the prices can be more than 20 times higher than in those that qualify for a Gavi or UNICEF financial subsidy, it says.

The MSF report, ‘The right shot: Bringing down barriers to affordable and adapted vaccines’, highlights that the price of the pneumococcal vaccine accounted for 45% of the total vaccination bill for a child who completed the recommended WHO programme. The charity is calling on GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to cut the price of their pneumococcal vaccines to US$5 per child for all three doses.

The call comes a year before more than 25% of developing countries are due to lose their Gavi subsidy, which means they will face price increases that many governments will not be able to afford, MSF says.

“We have an irrational situation where some developing countries like Morocco and Tunisia are paying more for the pneumococcal vaccine than France does,” says Kate Elder, vaccines policy officer for MSF’s access campaign.

“Because of the astronomical cost of new vaccines, many governments are facing tough choices about which deadly diseases they can afford to protect their children against.”

Elder says governments need to put pressure on drug manufacturers to offer better prices to Gavi-assisted countries: “Life-saving vaccines for children should not be big business in poor countries.”

The MSF report has been published ahead of Gavi’s pledging conference in Berlin on 27 January 2015, which aims to mobilise funds for global immunisation programmes.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 31 January 2015, Vol 294, No 7847;294(7847):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20067637

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