News / Africa

Record Low Price for HPV Vaccine

Lauren Fant, left, 18, winces as she has her third and final application of the HPV vaccine administered by nurse Stephanie Pearson at a doctor's office Tuesday, Dec. 18 2007, in Marietta, Ga. This groundbreaking vaccine that prevents cervical cancer in g
Lauren Fant, left, 18, winces as she has her third and final application of the HPV vaccine administered by nurse Stephanie Pearson at a doctor's office Tuesday, Dec. 18 2007, in Marietta, Ga. This groundbreaking vaccine that prevents cervical cancer in g

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Millions of girls in developing countries could soon have access to a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer. The GAVI Alliance has announced a record low price for the HPV vaccine. The announcement was made Thursday at the World Economic Forum for Africa in Cape Town. Despite the lower price, one group believes the cost is still too high.


About 275,000 women die of cervical cancer every year. Most of them are in developing countries. The HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus that causes the majority of cases. The virus is sexually transmitted and can remain in the body for years before cancer develops.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, a public/private partnership focusing on immunization, said, “Cervical caner is a disease that in most of the wealthy countries is able to be diagnosed using very simple technology and is able to be treated if people have early cancers. We have a triple whammy in these countries where they have a higher incidence of disease. They don’t have the diagnostic test available and they don’t have treatment. So this is a disease that is killing women in the prime of their life.”

Berkley said that if no prevention measures are taken, the annual death toll could rise to about 500,000 in the coming decades. The vaccine is generally given to girls between the ages of 9 and 13.

“We hope to take this vaccine by 2020 to 30 million girls in more than 40 countries,” he said.

GAVI launches that effort with demonstration programs in Kenya -- followed by Ghana, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. Rwanda may soon start using the HPV vaccine as part of its national immunization campaign.

All that’s possible, said Berkley, due to an agreement with the Merck and GSK pharmaceutical companies. They will sell the vaccine for $4.50 and $4.60 per dose respectively. The vaccine costs more than $100 in developed countries. The best public sector price before now has been $13 per dose.

The cost for developing countries will be based on a sliding-scale at the outset. As they grow economically, they will eventually bear the full cost.

“As a physician, I of course have seen in many countries this very sad scenario, where people present and all we can do is provide pain control. So this is a really big deal for these countries,” he said.

Dr. Berkley said that the goal is to get more vaccine manufacturers involved and eventually drive down the price further.

Not everyone is happy about the price of the vaccine. The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, says the cost is still too high. Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor for the MSF Access Campaign, said, “We think that there could have been a better deal struck for HPV vaccines for these countries. We know that pharmaceutical companies will still be making a very healthy profit off of these vaccines. They have already long recuperated their initial R&D investments. And so why is additional profit being made off the back of the poorest countries? And this is really kind of calling into question the sustainability of introducing some of these vaccines in countries that are so poor and have very fragile health systems.”

Elder said that the cost of new vaccines that are recommended by the World Health Organization has been steadily rising, placing a strain on poor countries. She added that Merck made over $1.6 billion dollars last year from its HPV vaccine, while GSK earned $416 million.

“Precisely, how much does it cost to develop HPV vaccine and how much does it cost to manufacture every dose of HPV? We don’t know. And that’s difficult when you’re talking about affordability and what is reasonable in terms of price reductions,” she said.

Doctors without Borders has called on the pharmaceutical companies to be more transparent about research and development. She says much of the initial R&D for vaccines was done in public institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health. NIH is funded by taxpayers. What’s more, it said the cost for immunizing each girl is really $14 because three doses of the vaccine are needed for full immunization.

GAVI’s Dr. Berkley has responded to the group’s concerns. He said, “Of course we agree that we would like to get the lowest prices that are possible for these vaccines. Now, one of the challenges [is] of course that we have to have a healthy vaccine market. And so what that means for that to have supply security there should be more than one manufacturer that’s supplying vaccine. And in the process of scaling up we are going to have to deal with vaccines that aren’t as inexpensive as we would like.”

Last year, 15 countries applied for the vaccine and GAVI expects another 15 to apply this year.

In developed countries, the risk for cervical cancer is frequently determined by using the Pap test or Pap smear. It examines cells from the cervix and can detect whether they are pre-cancerous. The test is not widely available in many developing countries, preventing treatment at a very early stage of the disease.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid