Big Pharma, NGO Square the Circle on Access to Vaccines

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One would expect a multinational pharmaceutical group and a leading humanitarian NGO to hold radically opposed views on access to vaccines.

Yet, when EurActiv asked GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for comment, their analysis was broadly similar.

Rohit Malpani, Director for policy and analysis at MSF won the Nobel Prize in 1999. In his view, vaccines offer the most cost-effective approach to controlling infectious diseases. However, access to vaccines remains unequal and suboptimal, particularly in the poorer developing countries, he explained.

MSF has three main concerns. First, vaccines may simply not be available for a range of diseases. Second, the medicine may be too costly to produce or be unaffordable for the affected populations. And when they are available, vaccines are often confronted with “thermostability” issues, meaning they should be able to persist for a few days outside the cold chain, allowing their use in remote areas.

The cost

“Today the lowest cost for the basic package of vaccines which all the countries should be using in their immunisation programs is 68 times more expensive than it was in 2001,” said Malpani.

The new vaccines that have emerged on the market are far more expensive than traditional vaccines have been, Malpani explained. In his view, three vaccines from the basic package account for 86% of the overall cost, and only one of them, the Pneumococcal disease vaccine, accounts for nearly 46% of the cost.

Source: EurActiv (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, vaccines