GAVI welcomes lower pentavalent vaccine price

In the lead up to its first pledging conference on June 13, the GAVI Alliance announced today it has achieved commitments from two emerging market vaccine manufacturers to lower prices for the life-saving pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five deadly diseases. Developed country manufacturers have also offered price reductions on rotavirus and human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccines.

“These are promising offers that demonstrate industry commitment to work towards affordable and sustainable prices for life-saving vaccines in developing countries. We congratulate all manufacturers who have responded to our call in the lead up to the pledging conference,” said Helen Evans, GAVI’s interim CEO. “We will continue to drive for sustainable prices, while ensuring procurement of innovative, appropriate, quality vaccines to meet GAVI country needs.”

The India-based firms Serum Institute and Panacea Biotec have committed to price reductions on their pentavalent vaccines funded by GAVI. Serum, which had already lowered its price to US$ 1.75 per dose, the lowest price available today, announced it would continue to provide the most competitive pricing and encouraged other manufacturers to follow its lead. Panacea Biotec committed to lower its prices by up to 15%. The pentavalent vaccine protects against five potential killers: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b. The price reductions illustrate the key role of emerging market suppliers as new global players, contributing to both innovation and increasing competitiveness in the market place.

In addition to these announcements, GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, has offered to provide the rotavirus vaccine to GAVI at $2.50 per dose, or $5 to fully immunise a child, in response to a current tender administered by UNICEF, a GAVI Alliance partner. The offer is a 67% reduction in the current lowest available public price. Merck has also stated that it will offer its rotavirus vaccine to UNICEF at discounted prices. Both vaccines are WHO prequalified and currently available for use. New market entrants, including Bharat Biotech, the Serum Institute and Shantha Biotechnics, a subsidiary of Sanofi Pasteur, are developing rotavirus vaccines for GAVI-eligible countries. Vaccines from these firms, however, are not expected to be ready for purchase through UNICEF until approximately 2015. Bharat Biotech said it could then offer further price reductions and lower the cost of immunising a child to $3. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea – the world’s second biggest killer of children after pneumonia.

UNICEF, which procures the majority of vaccines funded by GAVI, is currently conducting a tender for rotavirus vaccines. It will assess offers from manufacturers in the coming months.  

Evans said that if rotavirus vaccine could be purchased this year at a $2.50 price, the impact on public health could be significant and would allow GAVI to save approximately $500 million through to 2020, or about $140 million through to 2015, as measured against GAVI’s current financial estimates. Price reductions and offers by new entrants could create further savings and ensure a dynamic supply base. “We are strongly encouraged by these new developments,” said Evans.

Also today, Merck announced it will offer GAVI the HPV vaccine at a reduced price of US$ 5 per dose, a 67% reduction in the current public price. The price offer is the first of its kind for developing countries. HPV vaccines are part of GAVI’s vaccine investment strategy and the Alliance hopes to see further price reductions. Over 90% of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries killing 200,000 women each year.

Furthermore, Crucell and Sanofi Pasteur will extend GAVI prices on their pentavalent vaccines to the 16 countries currently expected to graduate from GAVI support. Sanofi Pasteur confirmed that this would also apply to its yellow fever vaccine and the rotavirus vaccine being developed by its subsidiary Shantha. These offers will help ensure that price is less of a challenge to sustaining vaccination programmes once GAVI support ends. The announcements build on similar commitments made to graduating countries by Pfizer and GSK to provide the same access to pneumococcal conjugate vaccines through the Advance Market Commitment.

“This encouraging news shows the potential for strong price reductions today and potential ones in the future, particularly from developing country manufacturers,” said Tore Godal, Special Advisor to the Norwegian Prime Minister on Global Health. “Every year, approximately 1.7 million children die of diseases that can be prevented through vaccination. That’s one child every 20 seconds. Working with manufacturers for low and sustainable prices ensures that donor funding goes further in immunising children where vaccines are needed most.”

“Our market-shaping goal is to achieve the lowest price for currently available products while maintaining supply security,” said Evans. “Looking forward, Alliance members will work to broaden competition and ensure the provision of quality vaccines at sustainable prices. Today’s announcements are a step forward to achieving this goal.

The GAVI Alliance is a Geneva-based public-private partnership aimed at improving health in the world’s poorest countries. The Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

GAVI support consists of providing life-saving vaccines and strengthening health systems. In its first decade of work, GAVI has financed the immunisation of more than 288 million children and prevented more than five million premature deaths.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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