GlaxoSmithKline Schemes with GAVI to Offer Rotavirus Vaccine at Reduced Costs to Third World

According to an article released in the Times yesterday, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) have linked up none other than GlaxoSmithKline to sell cheap, left over vaccines.

How the scheme works is by GAVI agreeing to purchase significant volumes of vaccines over a number of years – in this case 125 million doses of Rotarix between now and 2016.

UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron is due to host the GAVI conference in London next week to discuss how to raise more than £2.25 billion for immunization programmes over the next four years. This is because GlaxoSmithKline have lowered the price of their rotavirus vaccine for the third world.

Andrew Witty, chief executive for GlaxoSmithKline told the Times that the drug companies decision to offer the vaccine at a ‘heavily’ reduced cost as ‘not a gimmick or one off philanthropic gesture but part of a concerted strategy to change their business model’. adding that ‘that the people must come before profits’.

Witty went to explain how diarrhea is the largest killer of the under 5’s in the third world and that the new pricing structure is to allow the vaccine to be sold to the poorest nations at a fraction of the price. He said that government aid funding alone would never meet the funding needs of these people.

Full link to the Times article is not available for free but a piece of the article can be found here

All very noble of them considering that Rotarix vaccine was suspended around the world last year because it contained the DNA from pigs in it. What GlaxoSmithKline are actually offering, are vaccines at a reduced price to the third world because the take up has been so low in the Western world due to reduced confidence in the vaccine.

In 2010 the CDC put out this warning:

This is an official

‘Distributed via Health Alert Network
Monday, March 22, 2010, 15:54 EDT (03:54 PM EDT)
Recommendation to Temporarily Suspend Usage of GlaxoSmithKline Rotarix (Rotavirus) Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has learned that DNA from porcine circovirus type 1 (PCV1), a virus not known to cause disease in humans, is present in the Rotarix vaccine. All available evidence indicates that there has been no increased risk to patients who have received this vaccine. PCV1 is not known to cause any disease in animals or humans; therefore, it has not been routinely tested for in vaccine development. Rotarix has been extensively studied, before and after approval, and found to have an excellent safety record (i.e., no unusual adverse events). However, FDA is recommending that healthcare practitioners temporarily suspend usage of the Rotarix vaccine for rotavirus immunization in the United States while the agency learns more about the detection of components of the virus found in the vaccine.’

The alert finished by adding,

‘The recommendations detailed above are for the United States, where there is less rotavirus disease and an alternative vaccine is available. Other countries may decide to continue vaccinating with Rotarix while more information becomes known. Available evidence suggests that the benefits of continued use of Rotarix in countries where rotavirus disease is common and severe far outweigh any potential risk from the vaccine.

Clinicians are requested to report any suspected adverse events following Rotarix vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) via phone 800-822-7967’

In March 2010, Norma Erickson, the vaccines examiner from SaneVax, an organization promoting the use of safe, affordable, necessary and effective vaccines wrote:

‘Monday morning, the FDA recommended that healthcare providers across the country temporarily suspend the use of the Rotarix vaccine, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Singapore, Saudi Arabia and several Latin American countries have also requested that this vaccine’s use be suspended pending the outcome of further investigations’

GlaxoSmithKline has not stopped at the rotavirus vaccine. They teamed up with Pfizer earlier this year to arrange to supply the pneumonia and meningitis vaccines at a fraction of the price as well. The Times said that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest donor to GAVI, welcomed the announcements and said:

We’re particularly excited about the offers of the rotavirus vaccine because the shock of learning that 500,000 children die from a preventable disease is what drew us to work in global health. With these offers, GAVI will be able to make even greater use of donor commitments to increase significantly the number of children it can protect from deadly yet preventable diseases.

This is no generous offer by GlaxoSmithKline but a strategic move to off load millions of left over vaccines. The third world do not need vaccines to rid them of severe diarrhea, what they do need are vitamins, better nutrition and clean drinking water. Their problems has more to do with poor sanitation than the lack of vaccines.

In 2002 the Independent wrote:

‘What is the problem?
The greatest environmental disaster afflicting the planet is not GM foods or crops, the felling of tropical rainforests, proliferation of dangerous chemicals, or even global warming, but the scourge of dirty drinking water. It kills 2.2 million a year in developing countries. Most victims are children.

Forty per cent of people live in countries where water is scarce: by 2025 this is expected to rise to 66 per cent. About 1.2 billion people do not have safe, clean water to drink. Twice as many do not have adequate sanitation. Hundreds of millions suffer repeated, enervating bouts of diarrhea and other diseases – sapping their ability to work and grow food.

Poor people – mostly women – walk for hours to fetch disease-ridden water. They trudge, on average, four miles a day carrying loads of 20kg.’

What these people need from the governments around the world is massive injections of cash, better education and nutrition, not left over vaccines that the Western world have lost confidence in. This is no goodwill gesture but merely a cheap publicity stunt to make GlaxoSmithKline look altruistic.



Photo Credit:

About the author

Christina England, BA Hons