Monday, July 25, 2011

Wrong model for vaccinations?

There have been a number of articles recently about vaccination. In particular, the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunization (GAVI), which just raised US$4.3 billion for Vaccines worldwide. It is noted especially because a big sponsor of GAVI is Bill Gates.

This was hot news at the time (see this for example), being covered in all the major media. But in fact there has been much criticism of the GAVI approach. Of course this has not been covered in the media (see my previous article), but the critics raise some very important issues. Here are two articles:

Under fire: critics challenge GAVI's vaccine spending practices

Make vaccines for Africa in Africa, GAVI told

The first one raises some very important points. The model as I understand it (it is very hard to find precise information even on the GAVI site) is that GAVI gives money to pharmaceutical companies to buy vaccines. Countries then have to pay a small fee to GAVI to use those vaccines.

The first problem is that the pharmaceutical companies which are paid by GAVI are also on the board of GAVI (can you say corruption).

The second problem is a lack of health infrastructure (such as clinics or vaccination teams) in many countries. So even if they have the vaccines, they do not get to the people who need them. Which further means that money is wasted or the vaccines are allowed to deteriorate and become ineffective.

In other words the GAVI model is wrong.

GAVI was supposed to have reduced vaccine prices. Not only has it not done that, but each year the amount of money needed by GAVI has increased.

Of course, this is not surprising considered the interest which the pharmaceutical companies have -- increasing profits.

Another related issue is that almost none of the vaccines are produced in Africa, the very place where they are the most needed. Not only would this help the economy of the local areas, but the vaccines would have less spoilage and wastage. The stance often taken by companies on "intellectual property" is simply unacceptable.

In summary, what should be done should be dictated by the health professionals and those who would receive the money, not by big business and wealthy donors.