Sunday, October 23, 2016

Doctors Without Borders rejects 1,000,000 free vaccines

On October 12, Jason Cone, the Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, published an article explaining why the organization decided to reject an offer of a million free vaccines. Pfizer, an American global pharmaceutical corporation, offered a million free vaccines against pneumonia, the leading cause of childhood death in most parts around the world. Why did they refuse? Because they do not believe that the extremely high cost of the vaccines is morally right and Doctors Without Borders saw this gift as a helpful gesture that would be very short-term. Since Pfizer is one of two pharmaceutical companies that produce the pneumonia vaccine, it is able to sell the price for a high price and make high revenue—last year the vaccine generated $6.245 billion for the corporation.  Jason Cone mentioned in his article how “ we have been trying to negotiate with the companies to lower the price of the vaccine, but they offered us donations instead” and further along states that “Free is not always better.” A donation as generous as one million vaccines would most likely not be completely free since it would have a lot of strings attached to it like restrictions on who can and cannot receive the vaccine and would, more importantly, be a reason as to why Pfizer would state that the vaccine price must increase for everyone else.
Donations to low-income countries, while helpful, can also lead to shortages since the donator can stop its supply when and where it wishes. Therefore, Jason Cone believes that having the corporation lower their prices for organizations like Doctors Without Borders would be a much more helpful solution than giving a finite supply of free vaccines. He states that vaccines should not be a luxury when these vaccines can be the source of hope for thousands of children across the globe. Hopefully Pfizer decides to lower the vaccines and therefore truly create a global change to child health.

--Jeanette Rios

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