December 05, 2019
2 min read

MSF: Gavi should stop paying GSK, Pfizer for pneumococcal vaccine

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Doctors Without Borders said Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance “should immediately stop giving millions of dollars in financial incentives” to Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV, and instead give it to another manufacturer for a more affordable vaccine.

As a public-private partnership, Gavi uses donor funds to increase access to vaccines for children in low-income countries. In 2009, Gavi, along with Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Russian Federation, Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, developed the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to speed up the PCV rollout.

The final subsidy fund, which also was meant to incentivize the manufacturing of effective and cost-efficient pneumococcal vaccines, included $1.5 billion, of which there is $262 million left, according to Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“Pfizer and GSK have reaped more than their fair share of donor money for the pneumococcal vaccine, on top of the combined nearly US $50 billion in sales they have made over the last 10 years from the vaccine, so it’s time for Gavi to stop this big pharma payout,” Kate Elder, MSc, senior vaccines policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said in a statement. “Instead of throwing more money at Pfizer and GSK, Gavi should start supporting countries to prepare for the alternative supplier that promises lower pneumococcal vaccine prices for all countries.”

Flu vaccine 
MSF asked Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to stop supplying Pfizer and GSK with millions in subsidies for the pneumococcal vaccine.
Source: Adobe

The AMC is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, and any decision regarding the allocation of the remaining funds “needs to be taken by AMC donors and stakeholders,” a Gavi spokesperson told Healio.

“We share the same vision as MSF to reach as many children as possible with life-saving vaccines,” the spokesperson said. “Thanks to the AMC, the PCV market is one of the healthiest vaccine markets in the whole Gavi portfolio, particularly in terms of supply availability. More than 183 million children in Gavi-supported countries have been vaccinated with PCV in the past decade.”

According to MSF, the two pharmaceutical companies charge Gavi around $9 per child for vaccination in the lowest-income countries receiving support. But GSK and Pfizer get a “top up” from the subsidy fund, bringing the full amount to $21 for each child vaccinated. In middle-income countries that do not qualify for Gavi support, GSK and Pfizer charge about $80 per child, meaning “many middle-income countries have not started using the vaccine at all,” MSF said.

An alternative pneumococcal vaccine is expected on the market “in the next few months,” according to MSF. Developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the vaccine should be “significantly less expensive than Pfizer’s and GSK’s products.” SII has said that it plans to charge around $6 for the vaccine per child in low-income countries and no more than $11 per child in middle-income countries, MSF said.

“The new pneumococcal vaccine from SII, which is currently under WHO review for prequalification, is already listed on the Gavi menu for countries to apply to introduce into their routine immunization programs, or switch to, conditional to it receiving WHO prequalification,” the Gavi spokesperson said. – by Marley Ghizzone and Gerard Gallagher

Disclosure: Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm Elder’s relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.