Geneva - In a bid to increase transparency and stimulate competition to bring down the prices of vaccines needed in the developing world, UNICEF has decided to publish the prices it pays to vaccine manufacturers.
“This is a real step forward - until now it was difficult for countries to find out what companies were charging for specific vaccines,” said Daniel Berman, Deputy Director of the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “Full price transparency facilitates competition and will allow buyers to make the best choices for immunisation programmes.”
UNICEF is one of the largest vaccine purchasers, spending US$757 million on vaccines in 2010. Before January 2011, UNICEF only published average weighted prices of vaccines, rather than list the specific prices charged by each producer. This made it difficult for governments to know if they were getting reasonable prices from vaccine producers.
A voluntary price reporting system was established earlier this year that covered the annual prices paid by UNICEF over the last decade. Despite initial reluctance, most companies have now given their green light for UNICEF to publish retrospective prices. From now on, price reporting will be systematic and company prices will be routinely published.
”By getting access to these prices, buyers will be able to take advantage of the increasing capacity of emerging countries to develop and produce quality vaccines at significantly lower costs,” Mr Berman said.
The GAVI Alliance, a major financer of vaccines for low income countries, can also help to bring down prices. MSF urges GAVI to use their buying power to stimulate competition and to create incentives for emerging country producers to speed up the development of low-cost, adapted versions of vaccines.
“Developing countries would benefit from vaccines that are easier to store and transport, do not need refrigeration and that are easier to administer – orally or through patches, for example rather than with needles. GAVI should flex its purchasing muscles to encourage manufacturers down this path,” said Mr Berman.