Cheaper HPV vaccine for developing countries

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Girls in developing countries will have a chance to get vaccinated against cervical cancer, thanks to two pharmaceutical giants and top health groups.

Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC have agreed to chop the price of their HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, to as little as U.S. $4.50 per dose. The vaccines cost about $130 per dose in the United States.

The lower prices were negotiated by the GAVI Alliance, a global private-partnership aimed at increasing access to immunization in poor countries. It was launched thanks to a $750 million commitment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

The new cheaper vaccines will be available in Kenya as early as this month. Ghana, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania are all next in line, with the project aiming to inoculate more than 30 million girls in 40 countries by 2020.

This is a transformational moment for the health of women and girls across the world, GAVI CEO Seth Berkley says. We thank the manufacturers for working with us to help make this happen.

While HPV vaccines remain underutilized in the United States, with perhaps as few as a third of all teenage girls getting all three of their shots, it s been more successful elsewhere. In Australia, an estimated 73 percent of girls have gotten all three shots leading to a plummeting rate of genital warts and cervical abnormalities. In Rwanda, an estimated 93 percent of school-age girls have been vaccinated with Gardasil after a program started just two years ago.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava applauds Merck and Glaxo s price cut. I think this action will be very beneficial for public health, she says.