Cabinet has approved the procurement of vaccines to vaccinate every Fijian under the age of 19 against the deadly meningococcal disease.
This was revealed by the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Parliament yesterday.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said 345,000 Fijians are expected to benefit from the vaccines. However, he said in order to be able to access the vaccines, the Fijian Government was working closely with UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said currently WHO and UNICEF were trying to source the drugs, as they were made by private sector pharmaceutical companies and because there was a huge demand worldwide.
“We as Government will go through WHO and UNICEF and what is interesting is the indicative price that WHO and UNICEF gave a few weeks ago will be revised,’’ he said.
“We had originally approved US$10m ($F20.66 million) and may now need to approve up to US$40m (F$82.63 million) because of the huge pressure of accessibility of these vaccines.”
He said there were two issues and these were pricing and the stock pile of these vaccines being made available.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Government was concerned about the disease, and unfortunately Government did not control the price of vaccines sold in pharmacies.
Opposition MP Parmod Chand asked Mr Sayed-Khaiyum what steps were taken by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in ensuring that there was uniformity in prices of Meningococcal vaccines retailed by pharmacies.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said “The vaccine for this case is not price controlled because it is not a vaccine used every day. The Honourable Members would also know that the meningococcal vaccine requires a cold chain storage, it needs to be kept below a particular temperature level.”
He said some pharmacies in Fiji had the capacity to import the meningococcal vaccine.
He said prices had varied. They were initially expensive and some pharmacies had charged up to $350.
However, recently the cost dropped from what it was originally. It reduced from $240-$245 to $195.
He added that the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission was working closely with the Fiji Revenue Customs Services to see where pharmacies were purchasing the vaccines from and what the landing cost was.