Vaccines - 10 stories that mattered in access to medicines in 2011

“Vaccine prices need to come down so that as many children as possible in developing countries can be protected from killer diseases. For that to happen, we need make sure through price transparency, among other safeguards, that pharmaceutical companies are offering the best deal they can. “
- Daniel BERMAN, Deputy Director, MSF Access Campaign

At last, clarity on prices promises to make vaccines more affordable

The fight for more affordable vaccines for children in developing countries was boosted this year when UNICEF – for the first time – published the prices it pays for all the vaccines it buys.

This move revealed huge price disparities in what different companies are charging for similar vaccines.

For instance, the drug company Crucell, is charging UNICEF nearly forty percent more than the Serum Institute of India for its pentavalent vaccine that protects children against five diseases in one shot.  

There’s been no price transparency until now over vaccine prices and purchasers have had no benchmark figures on which to negotiate the best deal. Now the information is public, competing vaccine manufacturers are likely to drive prices down, meaning that more children can be immunised against life-threatening diseases.   

More in this vein, MSF is encouraging GAVI, the world’s biggest purchaser of vaccines for developing countries, to use its huge purchasing power to get the best deal for the vaccines it buys. That has not been happening enough so far.

While it is true that prices need to be high enough to make this an attractive market for efficient, lower-cost vaccine suppliers, current prices still include too much of a mark up.

Take for example one of GAVI’s landmark schemes, the Advanced Market Commitment, negotiated with drug companies to speed up the roll out of a vaccine against pneumococcal disease.  The vaccine will save many young children’s lives but GAVI could have negotiated better terms meaning that more children could have been vaccinated with the same pot of funds.

With current prices, countries that are losing GAVI support will struggle to continue to provide newer vaccines for their populations.