Experts raise red flag about rising cost of vaccines

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is concerned that children in developing countries will suffer amid rising prices of vaccines.

A Filipino nurse giving a boy his measles vaccine in a slum area in Tondo, Manila, on February 23, 2010. Medecins Sans Frontieres has warned at the first Global Vaccines Summit that children in developing countries will suffer if vaccine prices continue to go up. Noel Celes / AFP Photo
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ABU DHABI // Urgent action is needed to address the rising price of vaccines, the humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned at the first Global Vaccines Summit.

“MSF is extremely concerned about the costs of some vaccines,” said Kate Elder, vaccines policy adviser at MSF. “In the past 10 years we have seen skyrocketing costs,” she said at the summit yesterday.

In 2001 a package of six immunisations cost about US$1.38 (Dh5) – last year the price was edging towards $40 (Dh147), she said.

“That is a price increase of about 2,700 per cent over the course of just over a decade,” she said. “Looking at this upward trend we are highly concerned if things continue to go in this direction it will threaten the sustainability of immunisation programmes.”

Ms Elder warned that children in developing countries would suffer as their governments struggled to afford the rising price of vaccines. “When you look at the cost factor for these vaccines it is the newer ones that are disproportionally more expensive,” she said.

For example, vaccinating a child against measles costs $0.25, while protecting a child against pneumococcal diseases costs about $21.

Ms Elder said the cost of vaccines that were essential for public health needed to be reduced, but that there were no  guidelines about what vaccines should cost.

“We don’t have the information we need to broker these costs,” she said. “We would like to see the global community calling for more transparency surrounding these prices. We have ... made progress in reducing the price of vaccines, but there is still a long way to go.”