UNICEF Posts Vaccine Prices On Its Website In Order to Lower Prices

by Dr Sam Girgis on May 29, 2011

Vaccines and vaccination seems to be the theme recently for biomedical news.  We have previously discussed the increased number of measles cases due to decreasing rates of vaccination.  In addition, we discussed the debate that the World Health Assembly had about the destruction of the world’s last known stockpile of smallpoxBill gates recently gave an address to the World Health Organization, and expressed his support for increased worldwide vaccination rates.  On Friday, May 27, 2011, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) published the price of 16 vaccines that it obtains from pharmaceutical companies on its website.  The action is meant to provide transparency regarding different vaccine pricing ranges from various companies around the world.  The goal is to allow UNICEF to obtain vaccines at a competitive price so as to be able to immunize more children throughout the world.  Prices for vaccines can currently vary significantly depending upon which pharmaceutical company produces the vaccine.  The western companies tend to charge more for their vaccines and the difference can be greater than a dollar or more per shot.  In 2010, UNICEF paid over $757 million for vaccines, and a dollar difference between vaccine prices can add up to millions of dollars.  The UNICEF vaccination program distributed 2.5 billion doses of vaccines to 99 different countries throughout the world.  This effort was able to reach 58% of the world’s children, most of which live in poverty and would otherwise not have access to the lifesaving treatments.  GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, helps UNICEF collect money from individual donors, private groups, and governments.  Helen Evans, the interim CEO of the GAVI Alliance, has stated that they “strongly believe in timely, transparent and accurate information on pricing”.  In addition, she noted that “transparency of pricing enhances partners and countries’ understanding of market dynamics, leading to better visibility of how their financial commitments translate into the number of children vaccinated and lives saved. The GAVI Alliance is committed to ensure that the right vaccines are available in the right quantities and at affordable prices so we can save more lives with the resources available”.  Many western pharmaceutical companies are not supporting the release of this information.  It is likely that there will be competition to provide the vaccines at cheaper price as a result of the disclosure.  Western pharmaceutical companies may need to lower their vaccine prices in order to compete for the large UNICEF contracts.  Hopefully, the action will result in more children being able to receive these important and lifesaving treatments.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dori Pinkney May 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I’ll come back to this for certain! Great stuff.

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