NEW YORK – Merck and GlaxoSmithKline will cut the prices of their cervical cancer vaccines for some countries in the first large-scale effort to get the shots to girls in the world’s poorest regions.
The companies will sell their vaccines to eligible low-income countries for about $4.50 a dose, a more than 95 percent discount from the prices charged in the United States, said Nina Schwalbe, managing director for policy and performance at the GAVI Alliance, which will buy the vaccines and distribute them at a further reduced price.
Until now, there have been very few efforts to get the inoculations that protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV, to women in low-income countries where there is little testing or treatment for cervical cancer.
More than 80 percent of deaths from cervical cancer are in developing countries, where it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
The first vaccination program will start in Kenya this month and will be followed by seven other countries, including Niger, Ghana and Tanzania. GAVI plans to have HPV vaccination programs in 40 countries within seven years, Schwalbe said. GAVI will subsidize the cost to the countries, charging the poorest just 20 cents a dose, and covering the difference with donations from developed countries and nonprofits such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she said.