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Offer vaccines at lower prices: Poonawalla to pharma giants

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla,chief managing director of Serum Institute of India,on Monday urged big pharmaceutical firms to take their lead and offer vaccines at lower prices for saving lives.

Written by Express News Service | Pune |
June 14, 2011 1:46:35 am

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla,chief managing director of Serum Institute of India,on Monday urged big pharmaceutical firms to take their lead and offer vaccines at lower prices for saving lives. He was speaking at a pledging conference in London held by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). British Prime Minister David Cameron and Bill Gates,co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation,were also present on the occasion.

Poonawalla,in a statement issued here,said Serum Institute has offered the pentavalent vaccine at $ 1.75 per dose and this is one of the most affordable vaccines offered by any manufacturer in the world. He urged donors to ensure that there was a long-term funding in place beyond 2015 to meet the need for vaccines in the most vulnerable countries. “I call upon big pharmas to follow the same philanthropic pricing policy as Serum’s. It would be pity that those firms that do not bring down their prices would continue to make profits from GAVI-funded purchases,” Poonawalla said. The aim of the conference was to bring together GAVI donors and partners to make pledges towards GAVI’s US $ 3.7 billion for financing challenges. This support will enable the GAVI alliance to immunise an additional 243 million children and save an additional four million lives by providing new vaccines to tackle the main killers of children – pneumonia and diarrhea and by launching HPV,Japanese encephalitis ,rubella and typhoid vaccines.

He highlighted that they had established themselves at the largest WHO prequalified vaccine producer in the world for measles,measles-rubella combined vaccine as well as diphtheria,pertussis,tetanus and hepatitis- B combined vaccine. These vaccines have been offered at approximately the cost of a cup of a tea to UN agencies,GAVI and other countries.

“We have donated about 12 million doses of measles-rubella vaccine to various countries. Serum has along with partners developed a new meningitis – A vaccine to protect against outbreaks in the Sub-Saharan region. Already several million doses have been used in this region at less than 50 cents per dose and now the demand is for 40 million doses.” As many as 8,000 infants at five centres in the country,including Pune,will be involved in the phase-III trial for testing the . Dr Rajeev Dhere,director of Serum Institute,said the phase-I and II trials have been successfully completed.

The vaccine will now be tested among 8,000 infants at six weeks,ten weeks and 14 weeks. Around 527,000 young children die of rotavirus-induced diarrhoea annually,85 percent of them in lower-income countries of Africa and Asia,WHO said.

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