Pfizer reported in 2014 that the profit from this particular vaccine was 4.3 billion USD and that it’s expected to grow to 5.8 by 2020. This huge profit comes from the willingness of several countries to buy a life-saving vaccine with a hugely inflated price.
In the United States, for instance, the number of cases of this form of Pneumonia (which is referred to as Strep pneumonia) has gone down by 88 percent since the introduction of this vaccine.
Unfortunately, because a lot of countries aren’t as economically advantaged as the United States, death from pneumonia remains very common, mainly in South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, claiming the lives of roughly 920 000 kids under the age of 5 in 2015, making it currently the world’s most fatal disease among children. This explains Doctors Without Borders’ stand. It is a form of protest against the highly inflated cost of the vaccine.
Pfizer stated that they want to make the vaccine available and affordable to as many people as possible, all while protecting not just the vaccine but also the process through which it is made by multiple patents. This has made Pfizer a monopoly of one of the highest-selling vaccines in the market.
Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders, explains in an essay he recently published in Medium that this sort of donations is used to make other people pay an inflated price using of the donation as a justification for the price of the vaccine. He says that there’s no such thing as “free” vaccines.
GSK and Pfizer made 36 billion dollars on this vaccine alone. Jason Cone asserts that Doctors Without Borders have been trying to negotiate a lower price with the duopoly for years. Vaccines Policy Advisor at MSF explains how in this situation, buyers have the disadvantage of not having anything to reference the price to. Pfizer also makes physicians sign non-disclosure agreements to keep the individual costs secret.
On the bright side, a meeting was convened by WHO recently in Geneva and there, they proposed the selling of vaccines to NGOs at a reduced cost. GSK, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies and a monopoly of several vaccines, committed to the initiative.
This highlights a bigger issue regarding several new vaccines being manufactured by only one or two pharmaceutical companies. The new Malaria vaccine for examples is only made by one pharmaceutical company and the vaccines against HPV and rotavirus (a common cause of a fatal form of diarrhoea) are only made by two pharmaceutical companies. This means that even after a cure for the disease was found, a lot of people are still going to die from HPV and Malaria.
– Salma Aouf, Correspondent (Our World)