Doctors Without Borders warns about rising immunization prices

The international aid organization Doctors Without Borders recently warned that high prices could prevent children around the world from being properly immunized.

A decade ago, it cost less than $1.50 to buy the main recommended vaccines for a single child, but today, at even the lowest prices, it can still cost nearly $40 because of the increasing number of needed vaccines and their rising base costs.

"Adding new vaccines to the national immunization program is like taking out multiple mortgages," a Kenyan ministry of health official recently said.

Two new vaccines, one against rotavirus and another against pneumococcal disease, now make up three-quarters of the total costs for one child's vaccinations.

Doctors Without Borders said that adding more vaccines to the basic package is a good thing, but worries that high prices could create a threat to the sustainability of efforts to ensure that more children in the developing world can be protected. The organization said that most countries could not afford to vaccinate their children without the help they currently receive from the GAVI Alliance.

GAVI was created to finance the introduction of new vaccines to developing countries and has committed more than $7.9 billion to their immunization programs. Developing countries, however, are only eligible for support from GAVI if their income levels remain below a certain threshold. At that point, such countries lose access to GAVI subsidies and are no longer eligible for GAVI-negotiated prices for new vaccines.