The Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) plans to finance a third pneumonia vaccine developed by a French manufacturer.
Currently, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer are the only two pharmaceutical firms funded by Gavi to produce the vaccine.
Gavi Deputy CEO Anuradha Gupta told HealthyNation the organisation was not opposed to competition in the manufacture of the pneumonia vaccine, adding that it would soon license a third firm to produce the vaccines.
“Gavi’s effort to provide a pneumonia vaccine is not limited to GSK and Pfizer. We are encouraging other manufacturers working on pneumococcal vaccines to make use of the AMC in order to achieve the goal of having affordable and effective vaccines for children around the globe,” said Dr Gupta.
Dr Gupta said Pfizer currently supplies up to 70 per cent of current PCV immunisation stock, attributing this to GSK’s currently low manufacturing capacity for the vaccine.
Gavi’s move came in the wake of a long-running appeal by medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for the vaccine alliance to stop awarding special funds to Pfizer and GSK for production.
In Kenya, 11,203 children under the age of five died of pneumonia in 2016, according to the Global Burden of Diseases report, indicating a slight reduction from the 14,972 who died in 2010.
Pneumococcal infection and resulting deaths among children can be prevented with the PCV vaccine. PCV currently absorbs upwards of 40 per cent of Gavi’s total budget for 13 vaccines.
The vaccine protects children against 10 strains of bacteria that cause severe pneumonia, but the high mortality rates persist.
PCV is manufactured through Advanced Market Commitment (AMC), a special financing facility aimed at encouraging the development of pneumonia vaccines for developing countries that need to speed up their global roll-out.
Established in 2007, the AMC is funded by Gavi and six other donors namely Italy, UK, Canada, the Russian Federation, Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
MSF had asked Gavi to allow other pharmaceutical manufacturers to also access the funds.
"Despite the existence of the vaccine, nearly one-third of the world’s countries have been unable to introduce it into their health programmes, largely due to its high price," said MSF.
“Of the fund’s $1.5 billion (Sh152.6 billion), Pfizer and GSK alone have earned over $1.2 billion, in addition to over $4 billion in revenues from PCV sales to Gavi. Pfizer and GSK which are the only two pharmaceutical companies currently producing the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), have already earned more than their fair share,” MSF said in their statement.
“The current high price of the vaccine blocks children from being protected against this childhood killer, and as doctors and nurses we have seen far too many children die due to pneumonia,” said Miriam Alia, Vaccination and Outbreak Response Referent for MSF.