The humanitarian aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Friday announced that it has succeeded in securing pneumonia vaccines at an affordable price for the first time in Europe, in order to use them to inoculate refugee children in Greece.
MSF used the international "Humanitarian Mechanism" programme that offers the vaccine at the reduced rate of nine dollars per child (for three doses giving full immunisation) in order to protect refugee children from what is the top cause of child deaths worldwide. "This is the first time that the specific mechanism has been activated on European territory. In order for this to happen, MSF acted with the consent of the health ministry to make a request to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to use the "Humanitarian Mechanism" in Greece for children living in refugee camps," the MSF Greece programme director Apostolos Veizis told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).
"The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GSK are currently the only ones producing the pneumonia vaccince, which is the most expensive product in the basic inoculation package for children at present," he noted. He pointed out that in the United States, where negotiations with pharmaceutical firms was opposed, the price of the vaccine was as high as 540 dollars per child while in France it was sold at 189 dollars, while other countries with less negotiating clout paid somewhere in between.
This was the first time that the mechanism was being used in a high-income country, Veizis explained, noting that MSF had paid 60 euros per dose in 2016, or 20 times the lowest price worldwide. Recently, MSF had also managed to secure 4,800 doses of the vaccine for use in Greece via the Humanitarian Mechanism.
He also referred to the need to extend the use of the Humanitarian Mechanism to countries facing emergency situations in order to protect vulnerable children that urgently needed to be vaccinated, extending this to other vaccines as well.
"All the children of the world must be protected against pneumonia, which remains the first cause of death for children under five worldwide, giving them access to the specific vaccine at an affordable price. The vaccination of children is not a luxury, it's a necessity," he said.