Vaccine costs in developing countries are too high to provide adequate attention to at-risk populations, and some healthcare professionals are blaming pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for high prices.
Doctors Without Borders is calling on GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to reduce prices for vital vaccines, in an effort to provide protection to residents in poorer countries. The volunteer group has determined that vaccine prices need to reach five dollars per immunization to provide adequate coverage.
The Right Shot: Bringing Down Barriers to Affordable and Adapted Vaccines, a report detailing the financial costs of immunizations, reveals the price of inoculations is currently dozens of times more expensive than it was in 2001.
"The price to fully vaccinate a child is 68 times more expensive than it was just over a decade ago, mainly because a handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries," Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for Doctors Without Borders, said.
Pneumococcal disease takes the lives of one million children every year, and is one of the expensive vaccines that may not be affordable in many developing countries. Costs for this one drug make up 45 percent of the cost of vaccinating children in developing nations from a host of 12 diseases.
Pfizer and GSK have made over $19 billion in sales of the pneumococcal vaccine since the drug was first developed.
The Serum Institute of India has announced they will soon release their own version of the vaccine that will cost just six dollars for a complete treatment of three doses.
"We have an irrational situation where some developing countries like Morocco and Tunisia are paying more for the pneumococcal vaccine than France does. 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," Kate Elder, vaccines policy adviser for the advocacy group, stated in a press release.
Many developing nations are currently receiving donor support to assist in paying for a special price of 10 dollars for the critical vaccine. Starting next year, roughly a quarter of the nations receiving those donations will lose out on funding. Even the $10 price is too expensive for many countries, and that cost could rise to $60 if access to subsidized funding is lost. Hazards of rising vaccine costs extend beyond the world's poorest nations.
"Of particularly serious concern is the impact of this drastic increase on most middle-income countries (MICs), which are benefiting neither from lower prices negotiated by organizations such as Gavi, nor from international donor support," Doctors Without Borders wrote in its report.