MSF Welcomes GSK's Decision to Lower Price of Pneumonia Vaccine for Some of the World's Most Vulnerable Children

MSF/Sophia Apostolia

MSF calls on Pfizer to match GSK’s move and offer the humanitarian community the lowest global price for this lifesaving vaccine

NEW YORK/LONDON, SEPTEMBER 20, 2016—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes the decision by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to lower the price of its pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) for humanitarian organizations that serve refugee and crisis-affected children. For seven years, MSF has been in discussions with GSK and Pfizer—the only two producers of the pneumonia vaccine—for access to a more affordable price. GSK’s price reduction is a significant step forward in protecting vulnerable children who are reached by humanitarian organizations like MSF. MSF now hopes that Pfizer will match GSK’s offer, and that both companies will additionally reduce the price of the vaccine for governments of developing countries that still can’t afford to add the PCV vaccine to their standard childhood immunization package.

“GSK has taken a critical step forward for children in emergencies,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF’s international president. “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.”

Pneumonia is the leading cause of child mortality worldwide, killing almost one million children every year. Crisis-affected children, such as those caught up in conflict or in humanitarian emergencies, are particularly susceptible to pneumonia. MSF medical teams often see the deadly effects of pneumonia—a vaccine-preventable disease—in the vulnerable children they serve.

Until now, neither MSF nor other humanitarian organizations have been able to purchase pneumonia vaccines at an affordable price. Earlier this year, MSF paid $68.10 for one dose ($204.30 for the three doses needed to vaccinate one child) of the Pfizer product to vaccinate refugee children in Greece—20 times more than the lowest price that GSK and Pfizer offer.

In April, MSF delivered the names of more than 416,000 people from 170 countries who signed a petition asking Pfizer and GSK to reduce the price of the pneumonia vaccine to $5 per child (for all three doses) for crisis-affected populations and for all developing countries.

With its September 19 announcement, GSK has now pledged to offer humanitarian organizations a price of approximately $9.00 per child ($3.05 per dose). While GSK’s announcement removes one significant barrier to humanitarian access to the pneumonia vaccine, Pfizer’s pneumonia vaccine (PCV13) is still an indispensable tool in many countries where MSF and other organizations provide assistance, yet Pfizer continues to refuse to offer an affordable price for its pneumonia vaccine to humanitarian organizations.

“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. 

young child receiving vaccine.
Pierre-Yves Bernard/MSF