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Petition urges GSK and Pfizer to lower price of pneumonia vaccine

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i2455 (Published 29 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2455
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. The BMJ

The humanitarian charity Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders has delivered a petition of almost 400 000 signatures to the headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London and Pfizer in New York, demanding that the companies reduce the price of their pneumonia vaccine in developing countries to $5 (£3.45; €4.40) per child.

The petition was delivered to GSK by an undercover delivery person, who had a large suitcase filled with 16 oversized syringes. Each syringe was addressed to a GSK board member and contained a copy of the charity’s petition.

Last November Médecins Sans Frontières launched a global campaign urging GSK and Pfizer to make the vaccine available more cheaply.1 Pneumonia remains the leading global cause of childhood death, killing almost a million children under the age of 5 every year.

Greg Elder, medical coordinator for the charity’s Access Campaign, said, “Millions of babies and young children around the world are left unprotected against pneumonia because GSK and Pfizer charge such high prices for the vaccine. Many governments and humanitarian organisations can’t afford it.

“After combined sales of more than $30bn for the pneumonia vaccine alone, we think it’s pretty safe to say that GSK and Pfizer could find the money to lower the price, so that all developing countries can protect their children from this killer.”

Last year a report by Médecins Sans Frontières showed that the cost of fully immunising a child had increased 68 times from 2001 to 2014, while the number of vaccines in the full childhood vaccination schedule increased from six to 12 over the same period.2 Countries including Algeria, Bosnia, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Thailand, and Tunisia have said that they are unable to introduce the pneumonia vaccine because of its high price.

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