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


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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs