Drug giant Pfizer says it will cut the price of its pneumococcal vaccine by 6% to help improve access in the world’s poorest countries, but pressure group Médecins Sans Frontières argues the move doesn’t go far enough.

Last week MSF slammed Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline for the high cost of their pneumococcal vaccines and called on them to reduce the price to $5 a child. At a pledging conference for GAVI, the vaccines alliance, Pfizer has now promised to trim the cost of immunisation with its jab from $9.90 to $9.30. 

GSK pledged a 10-year price freeze on all its vaccines in middle-income countries set to lose support from GAVI*, “to help ensure sustainable vaccination programmes in developing countries in the long term”.

But according to MSF it’s just not enough. “Pfizer’s tiny price cut for the pneumococcal vaccine is inadequate. We need to see both Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline take bolder steps to reduce the price of this vaccine in developing countries so that more kids can be protected against pneumonia”, said Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor of MSF’s Access Campaign.

‘Meagre’ discount

“Considering Pfizer has raked in nearly $16 billion for this vaccine in just four years, we think the company can do much more than a meagre 6% discount,” she said, reiterating the call for a $5-per-child immunisation cost.

MSF also called on the drug giants to open up their books and be “transparent for a change” on what it costs to research, develop and produce these vaccines. “The secrecy that shrouds the vaccine industry makes it almost impossible to have an educated discussion on reasonable vaccine prices,” Elder stressed.

*From 2016, 22 countries with growing economies will begin to lose GAVI support, which, it is claimed, will help the alliance to focus on the poorest countries while handing greater responsibility to governments for their own vaccination programmes.