Bill Gates Dismisses Criticism of High Prices for Vaccines

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bill Gates has dismissed criticism by health campaigners of the high prices of some vaccines, warning that it only serves to deter pharmaceutical companies from working on life-saving products for poor countries.

In an interview with the Guardian from a major international vaccine-funding conference in Berlin, which on Tuesday announced that $7.5bn had been pledged for immunisation of children in poor countries, Gates denied that the cost of the new vaccine against pneumococcal disease was too high.

“Pneumococcus vaccine saves lives for about $1,000 per life saved,” said Gates. “So if you are going to do any helping at all, ever build a hospital, ever pay a doctor, you would [be willing to] pay for pneumococcus vaccine.”

The humanitarian aid organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) last week called publicly for the two big pharma companies making the vaccine to drop the price to $5 per child. Each child needs three doses of the vaccine.

At the pledging meeting for Gavi, the global vaccines alliance, hosted by German chancellor Angela Merkel, MSF organised a stunt featuring supporters dressed as Merkel, David Cameron, Barack Obama and others spinning “Pharma’s wheel of fortune”, claiming that whichever way the wheel was spun, the drug companies always won.

However, immunisation, Gates said, “is the cheapest thing ever done in health. This general thing where organisations come out and say, ‘hey, why don’t vaccines cost zero?’ – all that does is that you have some pharma companies that choose never to do medicines for poor countries because they know that this always just becomes a source of criticism. So they don’t do any R&D [research and development] on any product that would help poor countries. Then they’re not criticised at all because they don’t have anything that these people are saying they should price at zero.”

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

Health Care