There is no such thing as “free” vaccines…

Why Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) rejected Pfizer’s donation offer of pneumonia vaccine (PCV) doses for the children they serve


… “Free is not always better.

Donations often involve numerous conditions and strings attached, including restrictions on which patient populations and what geographic areas are allowed to receive the benefits. This process can delay starting vaccination campaigns, which would be an untenable situation in emergency settings, or grossly limit who you’re able to reach with the vaccine.

Donations can also undermine long-term efforts to increase access to affordable vaccines and medicines. They remove incentives for new manufacturers to enter a market when it’s absorbed through a donation arrangement. We need competition from new companies to bring down prices overall — something we don’t have currently for the pneumonia vaccine.

Donations are often used as a way to make others ‘pay up.’ By giving the pneumonia vaccine away for free, pharmaceutical corporations can use this as justification for why prices remain high for others, including other humanitarian organizations and developing countries that also can’t afford the vaccine. Countries, which continue to voice their frustration at being unable to afford new and costly vaccines such as PCV, need lower prices as well to protect children’s health.

Critically, donation offers can disappear as quickly as they come. The donor has ultimate control over when and how they choose to give their products away, risking interruption of programs should the company decide it’s no longer to their advantage. For example, Uganda is now facing a nationwide shortage of Diflucan, an essential crytpococcal meningitis drug, in spite of Pfizer’s commitment to donate the drugs to the government. There are other similar examples of companies’ donation programs leaving governments and health organizations in a lurch without the medical tools they need to treat patients.” …

… Read the full paper – There is no such thing as “free” vaccines: Why we rejected Pfizer’s donation offer of pneumonia vaccines, by Jason Cone, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, on medium.

  • More about the MSF Access Campaign, “pushing for access to & the development of life-saving and life prolonging medicines, diagnostic tests & vaccines for patients in MSF programmes and beyond“.
  • The Needle image by ps_sahana.

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