Report Examines Vaccine Costs, Access In Low-Income Countries

A recent report (.pdf) by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Oxfam International warns “that the global campaign to vaccinate children in poor countries is being hampered by high prices and is facing an acute funding crisis,” BMJ News reports.

“The report says ‘two fundamental challenges’ surround vaccine access and research and development. The first is that the newest vaccines are ‘often prohibitively expensive,’ in part because of a lack of adequate competition in the market, hindering their use in developing countries,” BMJ News writes. “The second challenge is the lack of incentive for drug companies to conduct research and development for diseases that affect populations with limited purchasing power,” according to the news service. MSF and Oxfam estimate that “wider use of available vaccines could help avert a further two million childhood deaths annually.”

The report also notes the challenges faced by the GAVI Alliance, “which leads international efforts to boost immunisation rates in developing countries,” and “has reported success in expanding access to vaccines against Hib and Hepatitis B, two diseases that cause considerable mortality.” According to the MSF-Oxfam report, GAVI “will have to make significant cut backs that will reduce access to vaccines in poor countries” if it does not receive $2.4 billion in additional donor funding, BMJ News writes (Moszynski, 5/12).

According to an MSF press release, GAVI’s attempts to broaden access to “pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) are an illustration of the hurdles faced by the organisation. … Despite repeated announcements heralding the impending roll-out of PCV across developing countries, PCV will remain out of reach for most children due to problems with supply and a lack of funds” (5/11).

A Reuters AlertNet factbox summarizes several of the report’s suggestions for how to lower the prices of vaccines on the market and in development, as described by co-author Daniel Berman of MSF. Such suggestions from the report include: investing donor money to support the development and production of vaccines in developing countries, removing patent barriers and engaging the public sector in vaccine development (Dmitracova, 5/12).

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