Representatives from all 194 World Health Assembly member countries met in Geneva, Switzerland last week to discuss the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) work objectives and agree a budget for 2016-2017.
Topics ranged from tackling antimicrobial resistance and Ebola to combatting drug counterfeiting and pollution-related illness, with delegates agreeing various resolutions intended to address these issues.
Immunization was another discussion subject with delegates agreeing the WHO should work to improve access to sustainable supplies of affordable vaccines particularly in “low and middle income countries aiming to extend immunization to the entire population.”
The resolution – which builds on the Global Vaccine Action Plan endorsed by the Assembly in 2012 – “urges Member States to increase transparency around vaccine pricing and explore pooling the procurement of vaccines.”
According to minutes of the meeting attendees agreed that “publicly available data on vaccine prices is scarce” despite such information being acknowledged as important for "Member States seeking to provide such products as part of national programmes.”
Other delegates went further, suggesting that high costs mean “many low and middle-income countries may not have the opportunity to access newer and improved vaccines particularly because of the costs related to procurement.”
Delegates also acknowledged “the importance of competition to reduce prices and the need to expand the number of manufacturers, particularly in developing countries, that can produce WHO prequalified vaccines and create a competitive market.”
They asked the WHO Secretariat “to report on barriers that may undermine robust competition that can enable price reductions for new vaccines, and to address any other factors that might adversely affect the availability of vaccines.”
Quite what barriers this may be is unclear, as is the WHO’s investigation strategy.
The organisation told us “It is premature to start discussing what exactly we will include in next year’s report as the resolution has just been passed” adding that “internal consultations are needed to determine the way forward on the complex issues, such as access to vaccines production and procurement.”