“After years of fighting for children caught in crises and desperately in need of the pneumonia vaccine, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is relieved to see that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) finally plans to reduce its vaccine price for humanitarian organizations. GSK is leading the way in this commitment to children who are experiencing the most horrific of circumstances, while Pfizer continues to hide behind excuses and offer only piecemeal approaches to the humanitarian community.
"GSK has taken a positive and critical step forward for children in emergencies but our experience tells us that lack of access to lifesaving vaccines is not only specific to crisis contexts but also to the many developing countries that can’t afford the vaccine. These governments are struggling to pay for the vital pneumonia vaccine – a vaccine that doesn’t just save lives today but is also a critical tool in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. GSK should seize the momentum to demonstrate that every child should get a fair shot at being protected against pneumonia and reduce the price of the vaccine overall for the many developing countries that still can’t afford it.”
—Vickie Hawkins, executive director of MSF-UK
Pneumonia is the leading cause of child mortality worldwide, killing almost one million children every year. Crisis-affected children, such as those caught in conflict or in humanitarian emergencies, are particularly susceptible to pneumonia. MSF teams often see the deadly effects of pneumonia—a vaccine-preventable disease—on the vulnerable children we serve.
For the past seven years, MSF has appealed to Pfizer and GSK—the only two manufacturers of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV)—to offer humanitarian organizations the lowest global price for their lifesaving vaccine. MSF and other humanitarian organizations have been unable to purchase pneumonia vaccines at an affordable price, preventing us from protecting children from deadly preventable diseases. Earlier this year, MSF paid $68.10 per dose (or $204.30 for the three doses needed to vaccinate a child) for the Pfizer product to vaccinate refugee children in Greece, which is 20 times more than the lowest global price.
While Pfizer continues to refuse to offer MSF and other humanitarian organizations an affordable price for their pneumonia vaccine, GSK has taken a positive step forward in announcing that it will sell its vaccine to humanitarian organizations, such as MSF, at the lowest global price. This is a welcome announcement and will enable the humanitarian community to give crisis-affected children a fair shot at living healthy and productive lives.
This announcement, however, will do little to help the many governments that continue to be unable to afford the expensive pneumonia vaccine for their own populations. GSK should seize the opportunity to further demonstrate its commitment to global health by lowering the price of its pneumonia vaccine for all developing countries to $5 per child (inclusive of the three recommended doses).
Pfizer’s pneumonia vaccine—the world’s best-selling vaccine, which has earned the company close to $30 billion in just over seven years—continues to be priced out of reach of both governments and humanitarian organizations.