BOGOTA, Colombia – As of 2015, Argentina will add three vaccines to its already significant immunization schedule.
Vaccines for varicella zoster virus (chickenpox), rotaviruses and Neisseria meningitidis will be added to the country´s national immunization program (NIP).
The decision will boost sales of products made by either Merck & Co. Inc. or Glaxosmithkline plc (GSK), the two companies that produce and distribute versions of the vaccines in question across the continent.
The move will also add to Argentina’s list of recommended vaccines.
“It is one of the most comprehensive vaccination schedules in the world, as we now have reached 19 vaccines,” President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner stated recently.
The U.S., by comparison, recommends 13 vaccines including a combined diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine and a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The inclusion of the three vaccines to the NIP will cost the Latin American country about $82.8 million per year. Of that, $60 million will go to the Neisseria meningitidis vaccines and $22 million to the varicella zoster and rotavirus vaccines.
“One can look at these investments as expenditures – for sure some will see them as expenditures – but we see this as an investment,” the president stated. “Not only from a social perspective, but also from an economic perspective, because to cure a sick person, in economic terms, is much more expensive than preventing his hospitalization.”
Argentina has about 8,600 public vaccination centers along 24 jurisdictions in the country.
“With the three vaccines we will avoid 25,000 hospitalizations and the death of 75 minors every year,” Fernández de Kirchner said. The program contemplates the vaccination of 1.5 million children younger than 2 years.
The number of vaccines in 2013 doubled the ones applied in 2003, moving from 27 million 10 years ago, to 57 million last year.
Rotavirus and varicella vaccines are to be introduced to the NIP on Jan. 1, 2015. However, the distribution of the rotavirus vaccine already started in early December.
“Argentina is on track to be one of the countries with the highest coverage with free and compulsory vaccination,” said Jorge Capitanich, chief of the Cabinet of the Argentine government, during a ceremony in which the distribution of the vaccine was launched.
The last country in the region that introduced the rotavirus vaccine to its NIP was Haiti. Other countries in the region such as Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Paraguay, Guatemala and Guyana and Panama introduced the vaccine between 2006 and 2010 in either pentavalent or monovalent versions.
The pentavalent version is branded as Rotateq (live oral pentavalent vaccine) and is produced by Merck, of White House Station, N.J. The monovalent version is branded as Rotarix and is produced by GSK, of London.
While governments in the Latin American region like the Argentine are boosting their NIPs, they are also increasing joint efforts to lower the costs when acquiring vaccines for their national vaccination programs.
That is the case of the subregional bloc Mercosur that unites Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, which recently announced that it will stop buying human papillomavirus vaccines through the Pan American Health Organization and will start direct negotiations with manufacturers to obtain greater discounts. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 5, 2014.)