MSF responds to Gavi’s intent to purchase COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline

Calls for greater transparency: "There is no room for secrets during a pandemic"

GSK pneumonia vaccine

Greece 2019 © Sophia Apostolia/MSF

NEW YORK, OCTOBER 29, 2020—As Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, signs an intent to purchase 200 million doses of vaccine from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is demanding transparency from these two pharmaceutical corporations around price, supply, and distribution plans for a potential vaccine. This information is key in order to ensure the public has the information it needs to demand a fair price outside of Gavi and put an end to the pandemic worldwide.

Gavi—which pays for vaccines for the world’s poorest countries and is trying to incentivize the creation of a new COVID-19 vaccine through its COVAX Facility vaccine financing mechanism—intends to purchase 200 million doses for the 92 developing countries it works with. However, it is expected Sanofi and GSK will sell the majority of their vaccine supply to countries that can pay more. Knowing what Sanofi and GSK actually spent on research and development, clinical trials, and manufacturing would give all countries better negotiating power to demand an affordable price and secure doses for their people.

As of now, high-income countries including the US, UK, Canada, and the EU that are able to pay higher prices have already bought up over one billion doses—or nearly 65 percent of Sanofi and GSK’s production capacity—of the vaccine, leaving just a small portion for all of Gavi’s partner countries and other countries that will also need the vaccine. Specifically, Sanofi and GSK—which have an estimated production capacity of 1.6 billion vaccines by the end of 2021—have signed bilateral deals outside of Gavi for more than one billion vaccines with the US (up to 600 million doses), UK (60 million doses), EU (300 million doses), and Canada (72 million doses).

By committing to sell the majority of their vaccines to the highest bidders, MSF is concerned that global solidarity is being undermined. People living in poorer countries like those in which MSF works cannot be left at the end of the line waiting for vaccines while high-income countries with existing bilateral deals are given privileged access simply because they can pay more.

Kate Elder, senior vaccines policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said the following of the announcement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic may be new, but the concerns around access to COVID-19 vaccines are not. It is critical that the pharmaceutical industry is transparent and accountable to the public during these unprecedented times.

“Pharmaceutical corporations Sanofi and GSK must sell their vaccines at-cost and show the public exactly how much it costs to make the vaccine. There is no room for secrets during a pandemic and past experience tells us that we can’t take pharma at their word without data to back up their claims.

“Global equitable access to affordable future COVID-19 vaccines is essential to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. But with over one billion doses—or nearly 65 percent of Sanofi and GSK’s production capacity—already tied up in advanced deals with rich countries including the US, UK, Canada, and the EU, MSF is concerned that global solidarity is being undermined.

“If history is a lesson for what we can anticipate for access to future COVID-19 vaccines, we’re worried that pharmaceutical corporations’ actions will lead to a situation where someone who’s not at high risk of COVID-19 in a developed country will get access to a vaccine before a frontline healthcare worker in a developing country.”