The breakthrough comes as GAVI gears up for a major international pledging conference in London on June 13 as part of its push to fight deadly and disabling infectious diseases in the world’s poorest countries.
It will mean greater access to vaccines against cervical cancer, rotavirus and the pentavalent vaccine – which protects again diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) which causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis.
GAVI is an alliance of public and private sector organisations whose board includes the WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation, as well as representatives from industry, government, academia and NGOs.
Helen Evans, GAVI’s interim CEO, welcomed the agreement, saying it would bring high-quality vaccines to people in need.
“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. We will continue to drive for sustainable prices, while ensuring procurement of innovative, appropriate, quality vaccines to meet GAVI country needs,” she said.
‘Significant impact on public health’
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 $1.75 per dose, 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%. GAVI said 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 per dose, 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 for the individual countries to sustain vaccination programmes once the GAVI support to them ends. The announcements build on similar commitments made earlier to graduating countries by Pfizer and GSK to provide the same access to pneumococcal conjugate vaccines through the Advance Market Commitment.
Governments welcome price offers
“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 on Global Health to the Norwegian Prime Minister.
“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.”