Uganda has welcomed an announcement by the world’s major drug companies to reduce the price of vaccines sold to poor countries.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi-Aventis have agreed to particularly cut the prices they charge for rotarix, a vaccine used to treat rotavirus-related diarrhea by up to 67 per cent to $2.5 (Shs3,000) a dose.
In Uganda, diarrhea is the second killer disease in children under five after malaria. Globally, it kills an estimated 500,000 children annually. The National Medical Stores (NMS), which is responsible for procuring and supplying drugs on behalf of government, welcomed the move, saying it will significantly increase access to vaccines to more people.
Mr Moses Kamabare, the NMS general manager, said they currently spend Shs7 billion annually to purchase vaccines for various diseases. This figure, he says, is likely to go up to Shs9 billion in the next financial year because of the increasing cost of many vaccines.
However, he said before Uganda starts procuring rotarix vaccine, the Ministry of Health will have to make it a policy and include it on the list of essential medicines and other health supplies. Uganda has not been using rotarix and children suffering from diarrhea are usually treated using Oral Rehydration Salt.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Rukia Nakamatte said it is already within the ministry’s plan to include rotarix on the list of essential medicines.
“We have submitted a plan to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) to have this and other vaccines for yellow fever, pneumonia and HPV vaccine for cervical cancer introduced on the list of vaccines,” Ms Nakamatte said.
GSK, one of the drug companies that announced the reduction, said in a press statement yesterday that it hoped this would increase access to its medicines and vaccines to poor countries.
Mr Andrew Witty, the chief executive officer of GSK, said: “Whilst most babies in the world will get rotavirus at some point, those in developing countries do not have access to the medical care they need which means millions of babies die unnecessarily. GSK is committed to playing its part in addressing the healthcare challenges faced by world’s poorest countries.”