The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) saluted the decision by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to make access to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) less expensive for humanitarian organizations involved in aiding refugee and crisis-affected children. Until now, no humanitarian organizations – including the MSF – had been able to reach an agreement on lowering the cost of pneumonia vaccines.
“GSK has taken a critical step forward for children in emergencies,” said Joanne Liu, MD, international president of MSF, in a press release.
“With this price reduction, our teams will finally be able to expand their efforts to protect children against this deadly disease. 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,” Liu said, calling attention to an even bigger issue that has yet to be addressed.
Nevertheless, the magnitude of GSK’s decision should not be minimized, especially given the fact that GSK and Pfizer are the only two producers of the PCV vaccine.
Specifically, GSK has pledged to offer humanitarian organizations a price of $3.05 per dose (totaling $9 per child), which is 20 times less than MSF was spending to immunize refugee children in Greece against pneumonia using the Pfizer vaccine ($68.10 per dose, or $204.30 per child).
Even though Pfizer’s pneumonia vaccine (PCV13) is still essential to MSF and other organizations trying to help those in need, the company has resisted offering a reduced price for its vaccine to humanitarian organizations.
MSF has been negotiating with both companies for years to resolve this issue and secure a cost-effective deal for all.
It is hoped that Pfizer will follow in GSK’s footsteps and match the reduced price for the PCV vaccine, or make it more affordable for governments of developing countries that still struggle to include this disease-preventing vaccine in their childhood immunization package.
“Pfizer should now match GSK’s move and help build a broader solution for the humanitarian community by also offering the lowest global price,” Liu said. “Instead of lowering the price for the humanitarian community, Pfizer has offered only a donation program. MSF prefers to have access to affordable and sustainably-priced vaccines so that the health of vulnerable children does not rely on the voluntary goodwill of companies.”
Globally, there are approximately 1 million childhood deaths related to pneumonia each year, which is more than any other disease. Crisis-affected children are particularly susceptible to pneumonia and are in greater need to receive what should be the standard of care.