Last month in Geneva, Bill Gates laid out his vision for the impact that broadening access to vaccines can have on the world. Now, only a few weeks after his inspirational speech, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has promised to cut a whopping 95% off its rotavirus vaccine for sale to the globe's poorest countries, while Merck has also said it would cut the price on its vaccine against the same illness. Sanofi Pasteur and Johnson & Johnson also promised cuts.
Gates stated in May:
"Vaccines are inexpensive, they are easy to deliver, and they are proven to protect children from disease. The best immunization systems work because leaders hold themselves accountable for results. Leaders diagnose weaknesses, innovate to address them, and spread the best ideas. Strong immunization systems will put an end to polio and help us reach all children with five to six new vaccines. We can save four million lives by 2015, and 10 million lives by 2020. I believe we have the opportunity to make a new future in which global health is the cornerstone of global prosperity."
Gates also said he was confident that the combined price of the pentavalent, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines can be cut in half by 2015, and vaccine makers pledged big price cuts for developing nations as officials gathered in Switzerland to determine how they can pay to protect children around the world from disease. Now it seems they are following through.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said India's Serum Institute and Panacea Biotec are on board for price cuts, too. They have agreed to reduce the cost of their pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five fatal diseases.
Merck will cut its rotavirus price to $5, and then again to $3.50 once it has sold more than 30 million doses. Its Gardasil shot against HPV will be cut to $5 per dose.
In addition Gates said that all 193 WHO member states need to make vaccines a central focus of their health systems. He said they must pledge to meet vaccine coverage targets of 90% at the country level with no district below 80%, and ensure that all children have access to existing vaccines and to new ones as they become available.
In the convention's opening statement back in May, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization touched on other vaccines that have been affordable developed with the help of Gates and his foundation:
"Epidemic meningitis is not the biggest killer in Africa, but it is among the most greatly feared of all diseases. The people of Africa deserve better, and in December of last year they got it: a powerful new vaccine that can prevent epidemics in Africa's notorious meningitis belt. In a project coordinated by WHO and PATH, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine was developed, in record time, and at about one-tenth of the cost usually needed to bring a product through development to the market. This offers evidence of a welcome new trend. Africa is the first to receive the best technology that the world, working together, can offer. Remember the people infected with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis or co-infected with HIV who had to wait up to three months for a reliable diagnosis."
Sources: The World Health Organization and The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation
Written by Sy Kraft