A massive nonprofit rejected a bunch of donated vaccines from Pfizer -- and now the drug giant is offering them at a lower price

A pharmaceutical company just made a major move to make its vaccine more accessible to people.

In October, Medecins Sans Frontieres, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian group focused on supplying medical care in emergency situations around the world, turned down a donation of 1 million doses of pneumonia vaccines from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, arguing that the group would rather pay a lower price for each vaccine than getting donations that would allow the company to keep the vaccine’s price higher.

In response, Pfizer is now offering its vaccine, Prevenar 13, for $3.10 a dose in humanitarian emergency situations. Infants and toddlers are recommended to be given four doses, while children over 6 and adults are recommended to be given one. (A syringe-worth of the vaccine costs about $180 not accounting for insurance, according to GoodRx).

Pfizer said it will also be donating all proceeds for the first year of its program to humanitarian organisations, and will be launching a four-dose vial that the company noted is designed specifically for emergency settings.

Pneumonia — which can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus — killed 920,000 children worldwide in 2015, according to the World Health Organisation. Pneumonia vaccines protect against the bacteria Streptococcal pneumoniae.

MSF has been concerned with the pricing and donation practices of two pneumonia vaccines out there: one made by GlaxoSmithKline, the other by Pfizer. In theory, a donation seems as though it would make sense: Give vaccines away for free, and then they can be used by people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

But MSF argued that it would be better if the organisation could just pay for the drug at a discounted rate than deal with the potential complications and restrictions that come with donations.

Other organisations that provide vaccines to developing countries, such as the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, have policies in place about drug donations. GAVI, for instance, resorts to donations only “under exceptional circumstances.”

For the past two years, Pfizer and GSK have donated the vaccines to MSF. MSF has been pushing both companies to supply the vaccine for $5 a child, and GSK agreed in September to provide it for around $9 a child. MSF did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Pfizer’s humanitarian program.

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