Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance Receives Big Private Industry Funding Commitments – Ahead Of Pledging Summit
Photo Credit: Gavi/Karel Prinsloo

A day ahead of a major pledging event, Gavi-the Vaccine Alliance has received some US $70 million in pledges from a broad range of corporations, foundations, initiatives and individual philanthropists to modernise, streamline and strengthen its delivery of vaccines to children in the world’s poorest countries over the next 15 years.

Meanwhile, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) issued a call on Tuesday for governments to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are sold at the cost of production, particularly so that low-income countries supported by Gavi can access any successful products.

Both developments come on the eve of the UK Government-hosted Global Vaccine Summit, which will aim to culminate in pledges of at least US$ 7.4 billion for Gavi’s efforts between 2021 and 2025 to immunise a further 300 million children.

“Gavi is the consummate example of how public-private partnerships play a substantial role in saving lives and putting whole societies on trajectories of progress and prosperity,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “We understand the innovation that exists and can be unlocked when we work with the private sector. As a result, we’re extraordinarily proud of and grateful to our many private sector partners, with whom we have been able to pioneer some transformational changes in immunisation systems.”

Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, New Zealand, and Canada have also announced commitments prior to the official event, following a massive US $1 billion pledge by Norway to the Vaccine Alliance.

Vaccine manufacturers Merck Sharpe&Dohme, Glaxosmithkline, Innovax, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. (SII) and Walvax have also committed to providing enough human papillomavirus vaccine to protect 84 million girls against cervical cancer.

MSF Calls For ‘At-Cost’ Pricing Ahead of Gavi’s COVID-19 Vaccine Funding Facility Launch

Photo Credit: NIAID

A new ‘COVAX’ funding facility will also be launched by Gavi on the same day in order to generate funding for advance commitments to buy highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccines for low-income countries.

Specifically, the MSF statement specifically calls for the vaccine to be sold  at-cost, and for the price point to be negotiated at the outset.

“Governments must ensure any future COVID-19 vaccines are sold at cost and universally accessible to all across the world,” said Kate Elder, senior vaccines policy advisor at MSF’s Access Campaign in a press statement.

Elder’s statement echoed those of several heads of state, including France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, and China’s Xi Jinping, who have called for COVID-19 vaccines to be treated as “global public goods.”

Still, MSF Access Campaign director Sidney Wong is concerned that “nationalist interests could lead to a scramble for who can buy [vaccines] first.”

Sanofi, a French pharma company, had previously walked back on a statement saying they would sell any successful vaccines first to the United States, following widespread backlash from health advocates and Macron himself. A Pfizer executive last week said that no premarket agreements had been signed.

Pharma Leaders Say They’ll Sell “No-Profit” Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson CSO, Jonathan Stoffels speaking at a 28 May press briefing

Some pharma industry leaders last week announced intentions to provide any successful COVID-19 vaccines under “not-for-profit” pricing. The International Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) later released a softened statement regarding the industry commitment to ensuring an accessible vaccine.

“Johnson & Johnson made a commitment to the pandemic period where we will supply [a successful vaccine] all over the world, at a at a ‘not-for-profit’ price,” said Johnson & Johnson Chief Science Officer Jonathan Stoffels, in a Thursday press briefing on vaccine development, organized by IFPMA.

Glaxosmithkline CEO Emma Walmsley and AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot echoed that successful vaccines developed with their companies’ support would likewise be sold at a ‘no-profit’ price. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was also present at the briefing, although he did not make any specific references to selling a vaccine “not-for-profit.”

“It’s encouraging to see that pharma companies are claiming that they won’t conduct business as usual during this devastating pandemic, and say that they’ll charge a ‘not for profit’ price for future COVID-19 vaccines,” Elder said to Health Policy Watch.

“Of course, the devil is in the details: how will pharmaceutical corporations substantiate that? Are they planning to open their books so the public can scrutinize their costs and see if indeed the price they set is truly not-for-profit?” questioned Elder, adding a call for companies to be transparent around the cost of production.

IFPMA later released a statement with softened language, affirming the industry’s commitment “to deliver safe, quality, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines to all” without specific reference to selling at a ‘no-profit’ price.

The industry group did however, affirm its commitment to continue supporting Gavi, joining other private industry sectors to support the public-private partnership. Several foundations, including the UPS Foundation, the ELMA Vaccines & Immunization Foundation, Laerdel Global Health Fund and the Rockerfeller Foundation committed funds to Gavi support supply chain strengthening and frontline healthcare workers.

Airtel and Mastercard committed services and funding for digitising immunization data, and social media brand TikTok and Unilever have committed donations to help generate demand for vaccines. United Bank of Africa (UBA) Foundation, Gamers Without Borders (GWB), and Netflix founder Reed Hastings have also made commitments to Gavi ahead of Thursday’s pledging conference.

Image Credits: Gavi/Karel Prinsloo 2017, NIAID.