Baghdad, 28 August, 2017 — In collaboration with the Iraq Ministry of Health, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today held a workshop in Baghdad to introduce an innovative price negotiation toolkit. The toolkit is designed to support governments to access the life-saving Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV).
Pneumonia is the leading cause of child mortality worldwide, killing nearly one million children every year. This is despite the fact that an effective vaccine exists that is produced by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Despite the availability of a vaccine, millions of children are left unprotected in countries such as Iraq, Indonesia, Jordan, Romania and Thailand, among others, due to the high price charged by the companies.
“As a medical organization, MSF has seen too many patients suffer unnecessarily from this disease” said Sylvain Groulx, Head of Mission for MSF in Iraq. “Many children die in so-called middle income countries because their governments cannot afford the vaccine - these are countries not quite poor enough to qualify for assistance and discounts from organizations like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, but not wealthy enough to pay sky-high prices.”
The tool that MSF has created is aimed at leveling the playing field and giving countries like Iraq a better chance of finally getting hold of the pneumonia vaccine. Pfizer and GSK have made combined sales to date of more than US$36 billion for the pneumonia vaccine, yet the companies keep prices artificially high for middle income countries.
The government of Iraq has been vocal on a global stage about the urgent need for greater transparency and lower prices in the vaccine market. In May 2017, Iraq made an intervention at the World Health Assembly calling for more affordable vaccines – particularly with respect to Middle Income Countries. Since then, MSF and the Government of Iraq have begun to work together to identify solutions to access a lower price for the pneumonia vaccine.
MSF’s pharmacist in Iraq, Pernille Miller says that “This toolkit comes at a crucial time. Just last week the Indian Patent office dealt a major blow to countries that need a more affordable pneumonia vaccine by granting Pfizer an unmerited patent on their product. This patent throws a roadblock in the development of other competitor vaccines by Indian manufacturers that have committed to more affordable prices. Iraq and other middle income countries rely on more affordable vaccines produced in India. With the outcomes of this patent case, it is more crucial than ever that countries like Iraq challenge the high prices set by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.”
MSF is additionally working with other governments in the Middle East and Asia to utilize the toolkit and employ other strategies to lower vaccine prices with the goal of extending the benefits of vaccination to all children.
MSF is an independent international medical and humanitarian organization, which delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters all over the world. MSF offers assistance to people based only on need and irrespective of race, religion or political affiliation. Today, MSF is a worldwide movement with 19 national offices and an international headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and the King Hussein Foundation Humanitarian Leadership Prize in 2004.
Each year, MSF teams vaccinate millions of people, both as outbreak response to diseases such as measles, meningitis, yellow fever and cholera, as well as routine immunisation activities in projects where it provides health care to mothers and children. In 2015 alone, MSF delivered about 5.3 million doses of vaccines and immunological products in more than 30 countries. It has purchased the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the past for use in its emergency operations and is scaling up its use of PCV and other vaccines with a particular focus on improving routine immunisation, as well as extending the package of vaccines used in humanitarian emergencies. MSF has vaccinated children caught in emergencies with PCV in Central African Republic, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Uganda, among others.
In 2015, MSF launched its ‘A FAIR SHOT’ campaign to push for pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GSK to reduce the price of the pneumonia vaccine to $5 per child for all three doses. Visit afairshot.org for more information.