Manufacturing Costs of HPV Vaccines for Developing Countries
(2016; 6 pages)


Background: Nearly all of the 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 270,000 deaths occur in middle or lower income countries. Yet the two most prevalent HPV vaccines are unaffordable to most. Even prices to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, are unaffordable to graduating countries, once they lose Gavi subsidies. Merck and Glaxosmithkline (GSK) claim their prices to Gavi equal their manufacturing costs; but these costs remain undisclosed. We undertook this investigation to estimate those costs.

Methods: Searches in published and commercial literature for information about the manufacturing of these vaccines. Interviews with experts in vaccine manufacturing.

Findings: This detailed sensitivity analysis, based on the best available evidence, finds that after a first set of batches for affluent markets, manufacturing costs of Gardasil for developing countries range between $0.48 and $0.59 a dose, a fraction of its alleged costs of $4.50. Because volume of Cervarix is low, its per unit costs are much higher, though at comparable volumes, its costs would be similar.

Interpretation: Given the recovery of fixed and annual costs from sales in affluent markets, Merck’s breakeven price to Gavi could be $0.50–$0.60, not $4.50. These savings could support Gavi programs to strengthen delivery and increase coverage. Outside Gavi, prices to lower- and middle-income countries, with profit, could also be lowered and made available to millions more adolescents at risk. These estimates and their policy implications deserve further discussion.

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