The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) does incredible work around the world, helping people caught up in humanitarian disasters and conflicts. We share MSF’s desire to vaccinate as many children as possible against infectious diseases no matter where they happen to be.
For many years we have been working hard, in partnership with others, to develop vaccines against infectious diseases and to get them to those that need them. This is making a difference. In the last 15 years, real progress has been made in reaching children in the poorest, most remote parts of the world with life-saving vaccines.
But children still die every day from vaccine preventable diseases and so we continue to look for ways to help. We will always seek to do this in a way that is sustainable – that supports access to vaccines in the long-term and not just today and that encourages governments to invest in vaccination.
Our partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which purchases vaccines on a large scale to protect children in the world’s poorest countries, is one way that we do this.
In 2010, GSK signed an agreement to provide hundreds of millions of doses of our pneumococcal vaccine, Synflorix, to Gavi at a deeply discounted price. Synflorix is a relatively new and very complex vaccine, essentially combining 11 vaccines in one. It needs to be made in large, state of the art, expensive facilities.
Under our tiered pricing policy, Gavi receives our lowest prices for Synflorix. To discount it further would affect our ability to supply large volumes of the vaccine in the long-term. Nonetheless, we continuously look for ways to be more efficient and reduce our costs so that we can pass on any savings we find to Gavi. In March this year we offered a further reduction to Gavi, bringing the lowest cost we charge for Synflorix to $3.05 per dose (equivalent to $9.15 per child).
MSF has called for a reduction in the price of a full course of Synflorix to $5 per child for all developing countries. This is significantly below our cost of goods and would mean that we make a loss on every dose of vaccine we deliver at that price. Typically each year, around 80% of our vaccines go to developing countries. For us to be able to continue to supply vaccines in the long-term and to continue to widen access to vaccines to protect people from serious disease, we need to be able to cover our costs and ensure we have a sustainable business for the long-term.
For the rest of the world, our tiered pricing policy means that the price charged to a government for our vaccines reflects the wealth of that country and rewards governments that invest in vaccination. Put simply, poor countries pay less than wealthier countries for the same vaccine.
Where there are acute humanitarian crises and people are displaced or require vaccines outside of routine programmes, we donate vaccines to groups such as Save the Children to enable them to respond quickly. We also explore creative mechanisms to get vaccines to harder to reach people, for example with our three-year agreement with MSF which offers a reliable supply of Synflorix to MSF for use in refugee camps for those fleeing humanitarian situations.