Pfizer's Prevnar 13, GSK's Synflorix pump up vaccination cost

Efforts to boost immunization rates are often dictated by multiyear plans. Last week the hot topic was ending polio by 2018. This week attention swung back to the overarching playbook--the Global Vaccine Action Plan--that aims to raise coverage of every vaccine on national programs to 90% by 2020.

Renewed focus on the 2020 plan comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) marks World Immunization Week. In a joint paper in the journal Vaccine, BIO and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) warn that more funding is needed to maintain current immunization rates while adding new vaccines to programs. By 2030, there could be 20 vaccines in routine use with a global cost of $20 billion a year. Around $2 billion is available as it stands.

Some think vaccines are already too costly, though. "The $57 billion Global Vaccine Action Plan does not contain any mechanism to track vaccine prices, despite the alarming fact that the cost to fully vaccinate a child has skyrocketed by 2,700% over the last decade, from $1.38 to $38.80," Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) vaccine policy adviser Kate Elder said. Elder noted that two vaccines, for pneumococcal disease and rotavirus, make up three-quarters of child vaccination costs. The pneumococcal vaccine market is served by Pfizer's ($PFE) Prevnar 13 and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Synflorix. Similarly, the rotavirus vaccine market is dominated by GSK's Rotarix and Merck's ($MRK) RotaTeq.

IFPMA and BIO favor differential pricing, whereby vaccines are more costly in wealthy countries to allow companies to make a profit while offering deep discounts to developing nations. Use of the model has allowed Big Pharma to lower prices in some countries, but the trade groups warn it is under threat. The risk stems from wealthy countries using discounted prices as benchmarks for what they should pay. As IFPMA and BIO see it, this practice jeopardizes access to vaccines.

- read the paper by BIO and IFPMA
- check out the Vaccine supplement
- here's the MSF statement

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