Merck, GSK make commitments to GAVI Alliance to provide discounted HPV vaccines

The companies will make their respective vaccines available at prices that represent a nearly 95-percent discount to normal commercial prices

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LONDON—GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck have both announcedthat they will drastically discount their human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinesin order to make them available to young girls in underdeveloped countriesthrough the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a public-privatenonprofit dedicated to "saving children's lives and protecting people's healthby increasing access to immunization in poor countries." 
"A vast gap currently exists between girls in rich and poorcountries. With GAVI's programs, we can begin to bridge that gap so that allgirls can be protected against cervical cancer no matter where they are born,"Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said in a press release. "By 2020we hope to reach more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries. This isa transformational moment for the health of women and girls across the world.We thank the manufacturers for working with us to help make this happen."
GSK announced a commitment to the GAVI Alliance to supplyits cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix as part of a long-term program. Thecompany will make doses available for four new GAVI demonstration projects at$4.60 per dose, a drastically discounted price. GSK has a long-standingpartnership with GAVI, with two similar agreements already in place: onestipulates that GSK will supply GAVI with up to 480 million doses of itspneumococcal vaccine over the next 10 years, and another under which GSK willprovide up to 132 million doses of its rotavirus vaccine over the next fiveyears.
"Cervical cancer is a significant issue, especially inpoorer countries where the availability of screening is limited," ChristopheWeber, president and general manager of GSK Vaccines, commented in a statement."We are pleased to be expanding our commitment to GAVI by delivering ourCervarix vaccine to help protect girls in the developing world. This continuesour significant commitment to make our vaccines accessible to as many people aspossible, no matter where in the world they live. We hope that this will helpreduce the burden of cervical cancer and positively impact future generations."
For its part, Merck has announced that it was awarded "asignificant portion of the UNICEF human papillomavirus vaccine tender, and willprovide sustained supply of GARDASIL … to GAVI-eligible countries." Merck isexpecting to make roughly 2.4 million doses of its vaccine available between2013 and 2017 at $4.50.
"It is essential that every young girl around the world haveaccess to HPV vaccines. Today's decision by UNICEF is an important stepforward," Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., president of Merck Vaccines, said in apress release. "This partnership highlights Merck's commitment to workingclosely with GAVI to ensure broad and sustained access to GARDASIL in the world'spoorest countries, where the burden of cervical cancer is greatest."
The World Health Organization (WHO) first recommended thatHPV vaccination be included in national immunization programs for theprevention of cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases following a 2009report.
The GAVI Alliance, launched in 2000, brings together "the specialistskills of all the main players in immunization," the site explains, includingWHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.Today's announcement is a result of GAVI's public-private partnership model.
GAVI will begin its demonstration programs in the next fewmonths with regards to providing cervical cancer vaccines to girls ages 9 andup, with the intent that the programs will help the targeted countries todetermine their ability to initiate national immunization programs. GAVIannounced in a press release that it will begin support for HPV vaccines inKenya "as early as this month," followed by Ghana, Lao PDR, Madagascar, Malawi,Niger, Sierra Leone and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Cervical cancer is a serious problem in developingcountries, which account for more than 85 percent of the global disease burden.Globally, it represents the second most common cancer in women, with theGLOBOCAN 2008: IARC Cancer Fact Sheets reporting approximately 529,000 newcases and 275,000 deaths in 2008.
"Developing countries bear an increasing burden of cervicalcancer, and it is only right that our girls should have the same protection asgirls in other countries," Dr. Richard Sezibera, secretary general of the EastAfrican Community, GAVI Board member and former Health Minister of Rwanda, saidin a press release. "In Africa, where facilities to diagnose and treat cervicalcancer are few and far between, HPV vaccines will mean the difference betweenlife and death for so many women in the prime of their lives."

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