[Ip-health] Palm Beach Post: Could a Zika vaccine be too expensive?

Andrew S. Goldman andrew.goldman at keionline.org
Fri Jun 2 10:05:52 PDT 2017


Could a Zika vaccine be too expensive?

John Pacenti

May 30, 2017

One thing is for certain, where there is a pandemic, there is money to be

A French pharmaceutical company will do the final testing for a Zika
vaccine developed last year by the U.S. Army at taxpayer expense, National
Public Radio is reporting. If the testing goes well, the company will set
the price for the U.S. market.

The question is: Will state governments be able to afford the French
company’s asking price for a vaccine that U.S. Army helped bring to

Rebekah Gee, Louisiana’s secretary of health, told NPR that her state is in
the middle of a financial crisis and is looking at cutting money allocated
to fight the Zika virus carried mainly by the Aedes aegypti — the B-52 of

“God forbid we have a Zika outbreak,” she told NPR.

The virus can inflict devastating birth defects for fetuses, including
microencephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains and
small heads. More birth defects related to the virus are expected in 2017
in Florida and throughout the U.S.

The total number of Zika cases reported in Florida in 2016 was 1,384. The
total number of Zika cases reported in Florida for 2017 so far is 18.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggest that because the full
effects of the virus are unknown, all pregnant women infected with Zika
should receive postnatal imaging and a comprehensive newborn physical exam
and hearing screen until a vaccine can be marketed.

The U.S. Army plans to grant an exclusive license to Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.
to manufacture and sell the vaccine after it testing. Gee said the French
pharmaceutical giant could set a price that is too high for states like

NPR reports that Gee is just one among a growing number of public officials
and activists expressing concern. They want Sanofi to agree in writing to
show restraint when it sets the price for the vaccine.

Doctors without Borders and Knowledge Ecology International have asked the
Army to delay granting Sanofi the exclusive license until the company
agrees to reasonable price terms. Former Democratic Presidential candidate,
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards have

Former Democratic Presidential candidateU.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards have also asked the Army to get such a

“If the American public funds the life-saving intervention, we need price
protections for states that have to foot the bill,” Gee says.

Louisianna is in such a tight financial bind, Gee says, lawmakers will have
to choose between funding for K-12 education and the Zika vaccine.

Jamie Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a non-profit
public interest group, said the inventors of the vaccine are all federal
employees whose salaries are paid by the U.S. taxpayer. Furthermore, the
U.S. Army did all the Phase I research and testing so there is no research
and development cost to Sanofi.

Sanofi told NPR that it has incurred a substantial cost, dedicating 60
scientists full time to the Zika vaccine.

If plans remain, the Department of Health and Human Services will give
Sanofi $43 million for a Phase II trial. This will determine the success
rate of the vaccine and any side-effects. If the vaccine passes, then the
agency will then give another $130 million to Sanofi for a Phase III trial.

To read all of the NPR story on the Health News Florida website, click here.

Andrew S. Goldman
Counsel, Policy and Legal Affairs
Knowledge Ecology International
andrew.goldman at keionline.org // www.twitter.com/ASG_KEI
tel.: +1.202.332.2670

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