MSF to oppose Pfizer’s bid for pneumonia vaccine patent

New Delhi/New York, July 28 (IANS) Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Thursday said it will defend the rights of millions of children around the world to be protected against pneumonia, and will oppose US pharma giant Pfizer’s bid for a patent on the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) at a hearing in India’s patent office on Friday.

The international humanitarian-aid organisation, also called Doctors Without Borders, filed a “patent opposition” to prevent the US pharmaceutical giant from getting a patent on PCV13, a MSF statement said.

“The pneumonia vaccine is the world’s best-selling vaccine, and last year alone, Pfizer brought in more than $6 billion dollars in sales just for this product — meanwhile many developing countries, where millions of children risk getting pneumonia, simply can’t afford it,” said Greg Elder, Medical Coordinator for MSF’s Access Campaign.

“To make sure children everywhere can be protected from deadly pneumonia, other companies need to be allowed to enter the market so they can supply this vaccine for a much lower price than what Pfizer charges,” Elder added.

Pfizer has priced the pneumonia vaccine, which it markets as Prevenar 13, out of reach of many developing countries and humanitarian organisations.

According to a 2015 MSF report, at the lowest global price it is now 68 times more expensive to fully vaccinate a child than in 2001, with the pneumonia vaccine accounting for almost half of the price of vaccination of a child in the poorest countries.

One vaccine producer in India has already announced that it could supply the pneumonia vaccine for $6 per child (for all three doses) to public health programmes and humanitarian organisations like MSF.

This is almost half the current lowest global price of $10 dollars per child, which is only available to a limited number of developing countries via donor funding through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of childhood death, killing almost one million children each year. Currently, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are the only two manufacturers of the vaccine, which could prevent a large number of these deaths.

–IANS

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