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Transparent pricing of vaccines would help poor as well as rich countries

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7414 (Published 23 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7414
  1. Robert Hecht, managing director, Results for Development Institute, Washington, DC,
  2. Miloud Kaddar, group leader, Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals Department, World Health Organization, Geneva,
  3. Sarah Schmitt, consultant to the World Health Organization on vaccine price and procurement, Geneva
  1. Correspondence to: R Hecht rhecht{at}resultsfordevelopment.org

The BMJ’s editor, Fiona Godlee, recently challenged the UK government to publish the price it pays for vaccines, including the new vaccine Cervarix, which helps prevent cervical cancer (BMJ 2011;343:d6239, doi:10.1136/bmj.d6239). Price transparency is not just a matter for the United Kingdom, however: it is a point of vigorous debate and growing urgency in countries around the world.1

Until recently, only a handful of nations—notably the United States, through its large public sector vaccine programme for children, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—published the prices that they were paying for vaccines. Yet the questions of how much taxpayers’ money is being spent on vaccines, and which companies are winning the public tenders, is becoming ever more important as science and industry develop a new generation of life saving vaccines.

Beyond the traditional antigens for measles, tetanus, and polio, new vaccines that prevent childhood pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhoea are now in use, as well as cancer blocking vaccines for hepatitis B (liver cancer) and human papillomavirus (cervical cancer). Better vaccines for typhoid are just a few years away. A first vaccine against malaria is in advanced trials and showing promising results.2

These fruits of government and private sector investment will save millions of lives …

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