In a deal that could save millions of lives, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reached an unprecedented agreement with six manufacturers that slashes the price of pentavalent vaccine to half what the agency currently pays.
UNICEF said in a statement that the deal will enable it to send 450 million doses of the five-in-one vax--a crucial immunization that protects children from killer diseases diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Hib--to 80 countries at a unit price of about 84 cents for the next three years, compared to the $1.65 per dose the agency is currently paying.
A majority of the doses will be dispensed in countries supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance--an international organization that works with public and private sectors in an endeavor to increase equal access to vaccines in lower-income countries.
“For the most vulnerable children in the world, pricing can make a difference between life and death,” said Shanelle Hall, director of UNICEF’s supply and procurement headquarters, in the statement. Gavi estimates that the shots could save the lives of 5.7 million children between 2011 and 2020.
The six participants that will offer different presentations of the vaccine are Biological E, Janssen, LG Life Sciences, Panacea Biotec, Serum Institute of India, and Shantha Biotechs.
“The market for five-in-one vaccines is now a lot healthier than it was just a few years ago thanks to our collective efforts to grow a base of vaccine suppliers,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, in a release about the new deal. He called on the vaccine industry to make sure “that sufficient quantities of quality vaccines are available at affordable prices so that countries and donors implement sustainable immunisation programmes, increase coverage and promote equitable access to vaccines.”
The first pentavalent vaccine was launched in 2001. Since then, the agency, together with Gavi and the Gates Foundation, has been leveraging its status as a gigantic customer--purchases from UNICEF itself jumped from 14.5 million doses in 2001 to more than 235 million in 2015--to boost competition by, for example, publishing the prices of all vaccines it had procured and offering several rounds of bids. Prices started to drop dramatically in 2008 when India’s Shantha entered the ring, offering its $2.90 single-dose vax compared to GlaxoSmithKline’s $3.50 version.
Read more here