Vaccine plan

MORE than 300,000 Fijians aged 19 years and below will soon be vaccinated for prevention against the meningococcal disease (Men-C).

Revealing this in Parliament yesterday, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said this after an endorsement by Cabinet, costing the State $40 million.

“Cabinet has already approved the purchase or procurement of vaccines to vaccinate every single Fijian from 19 years and below. Approximately 345,000 Fijians would be vaccinated,” he said.

He said the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF were trying to source these drugs for the ministry.

“In order to be able to access that level of vaccine, we are working together with UNICEF and WHO. We had originally approved $10 million, we may now need to approve up to $40 million because of the huge pressure on accessibility of these vaccines.

“The permanent secretary and her team are actually negotiating or having a meeting today (yesterday) with WHO and UNICEF and because they are now saying that they may not have available all the vials as is required by Fijians to vaccinate all Fijians who are 19 years and below. That is the other story at play, but these are the small stockpile that is available through the private pharmacies.”

The Health Ministry announced an outbreak of meningococcal in the country last month, confirming 38 cases have been recorded so far this year.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said because there was a huge demand for the vaccines also in South Africa, there was a huge impact on pricing.

“The pricing that we will get from WHO and UNICEF obviously will be a different pricing. Initially, they had said to us that it will be $US10 a vial, but now it can go as high as $US40 or $US50 a vial, we do not know. So as we said, there is a huge pressure on the pricing. Even buying through agencies like WHO and UNICEF we obviously do not want to pre-empt any of the pricing that we will get from them, but that is the pricing situation at the moment worldwide.”

He said he was aware that some pharmacies were selling it for as high as $350 while some were sold at just more than $100 and $200.

He also clarified the prices of Men-C vaccines in Fiji were not controlled by Government but by the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission, which was also monitoring the varying prices in local pharmacies.

“There are certain medicines that are price controlled and there are certain medicines that are not price controlled. In this particular instance, meningococcal vaccines are not price controlled because it’s not a vaccine that is used every day or not required every day.

“Prices have in fact varied. We saw that some pharmacies were unethically charging something up to $350.”

But, he said recently they have noticed that prices for the vaccines have dropped.

Opposition member of Parliament, Niko Nawaikula argued that with people having to pay $150 for the vaccine, it was a lot.

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