Vaccine Makers Face Global Challenges

Efforts to extend the reach of life-saving vaccines will cost billions and pose tough pricing challenges for innovators. The current strategy of differential pricing is proving problematic.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Efforts to extend the reach of life-saving vaccines will cost billions and pose tough pricing challenges for innovators, according to an article published by the field’s experts in the journal Vaccine.

The article evaluates opportunities and challenges before the Decades of Vaccines initiative, a $10 billion program backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2010, the initiative seeks to conquer preventable deaths in poor countries by achieving 90% coverage in targeted nations by 2020.

Even with the $10 billion Gates contribution though, the authors write “the daunting reality is that donor funding may remain flat in the next few years, and the need for long-term financing of new vaccine development and utilization will increase.”

By 2030, they write, there could be as many as 20 vaccines in routine use at a cost of $20 billion a year — far exceeding the $1 billion to $2 billion a year that is currently available.

The leading strategy for making vaccines affordable in poor countries has been differential pricing — charging poor countries far less than rich and middle-income countries. But this is proving problematic, as rich nations seek to use low foreign vaccine prices as the benchmark for domestic prices. The authors write that the approach risks undermining individual companies’ ability to recoup their R&D costs, “potentially eroding their ability to apply lower prices in less affluent markets, and jeopardizing patient access to needed vaccines.”

Development of new vaccines is costly and complex. It can cost between $200 million and $900 million and take between eight and 19 years for the creation of just one vaccine, according to figures provided by the Biotechnology Industry Organization and International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations.

To support advancements in vaccine development and access, the authors conclude, industry will need to participate in open dialogue with countries and other international stakeholders “to ensure sustained access to current and future high-quality vaccines,” and work together “to address technical, regulatory, and economic challenges.”

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