WHO’s Soumya Swaminathan calls for vaccine technology pools, IP waiver

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July 10, 2021 4:00 AM

A vaccine manufacturing task force has been launched by WHO that announced the first MRna vaccine hub in South Africa. This is expected be a good pilot to figure how new technology can be taken to other countries.

The target at present is to vaccinate at least 10% of the vulnerable in every country by September.The target at present is to vaccinate at least 10% of the vulnerable in every country by September.

Soumya Swaminathan, a scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO), has urged countries to explore options for increasing vaccine production, including voluntary licences, technology pools, use of TRIPS flexibilities and waiver of intellectual property provisions. Countries would need to invest in local vaccine manufacturing capacities and it is a good time as there was lot of political momentum, she said.

A vaccine manufacturing task force has been launched by WHO that announced the first MRna vaccine hub in South Africa. This is expected be a good pilot to figure how new technology can be taken to other countries.

The COVAX target was to delivery two billion doses by end of 2021 to ensure equitable distribution of vaccine and have a 20% coverage and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine was to be the main supplier. COVAX has so far delivered 100 million doses. None of the manufacturers had prioritised COVAX and as a result supplies have been delayed. The target at present is to vaccinate at least 10% of the vulnerable in every country by September.

Large volumes of vaccines are expected to go out in the last quarter of this year and help achieve the two billion dose target. WHO’s goal is 40% coverage in every country by end of this year and 70% of the population by the middle of next year, Swaminathan said. A short term quick win in supplies was possible with dose sharing by those who have excess doses and have achieved 30-40% coverage, she suggested.

Nearly 77% of all doses have been administered in top 10 countries and 41% in the top one. Low income countries have received just 0.3% of doses, Swaminathan said on Friday at a Down to Earth webinar on vaccines – the global race between the virus, its variants and the vaccines. There were 105 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in clinical evaluation and out of these 27 were in Phase 3/4 while 184 candidates were in preclinical evaluation. Six vaccines have received WHO Emergency Use listing. Bharat Biotech has started uploading data on to the WHO portal and that will be the next vaccine viewed by the expert committee, she said. A decision about listing was expected in four to six weeks.

COVAX had dealt with indemnity issues and fear among vaccine companies about law suits by creating a system where each country did not have set up a compensation mechanism and a fund. COVAX paid premium for insurance coverage so any person in the 192 countries suffered an adverse event or death due to the vaccine, they would be eligible for compensation without having to go individually and fight legal cases.

Swaminathan was worried about rise in cases and subsequent increase in deaths. In the last 24 hours there have been 4.84 lakh new cases and 9,391 deaths across the world. Brazil, India, Indonesia, US and UK accounted for the highest new cases. Europe had reported a 32.2% rise in new cases in the last seven days. There was a 21.2% rise in cases in Eastern Mediterranean and 18.2% rise in Africa. She attributed this rise to the rise case to the Delta variant which was very transmissible with one person infecting seven to eight people compared as opposed to the original Wuhan strain where one person would infect two to three people. The social mixing seen in many countries, relaxation of public health measure and inadequate vaccine coverage was also causing rise in case.

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