Big Pharma Commits to 5-Point Plan to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Equity

Major global vaccine manufacturers and biotech companies have committed to a five-point plan to “advance COVID-19 vaccine equity”, focusing on “responsible dose-sharing” and “maximizing production”. 

They pointed out that, within a few months, vaccine doses had gone from “zero to 2.2 billion” and were predicted to reach 11 billion doses by the end of 2021 – “enough to vaccinate the world’s adult population”. 

“Critically, however, COVID-19 vaccines currently are not equally reaching all priority populations worldwide,” said a media statement issued by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), International Council of Biotechnology Associations (ICBA), International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Vaccines Europe. 

Dose-Sharing and Optimising Production

To enable more equitable distribution, the vaccine manufacturers and biotech companies committed to stepping up dose-sharing by working with governments with enough supply to “share a meaningful proportion of their doses with low- and lower-middle-income countries in a responsible and timely way through COVAX or other efficient established mechanisms”.

Second, they committed to optimising production, “including through additional collaborations with partners that can produce significant quantities”.

Third, they said they would identify trade barriers that needed to be eliminated. To do this, they aim to work with the new COVAX Supply Chain and Manufacturing Task Force that is identifying production gaps and facilitating “voluntary matchmaking for fill and finish capacity”.

They would also urge governments to work with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to “eliminate all trade and regulatory barriers to export” and to “adopt policies that facilitate and expedite the cross-border supply of key raw materials, essential manufacturing materials, vaccines”.

They also committed to supporting country readiness, “particularly in low- and lower-middle income countries, to ensure that they are ready and able to deploy available doses within their shelf life”.

More Innovation

Finally, they committed to driving “further innovation”, and “prioritise the development of new COVID-19 vaccines, including vaccines effective against variants of concern”.

At the World Health Organization’s (WHO) bi-weekly media briefing on Monday, WHO Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed to wealthy countries to urgently donate vaccines to COVAX, which has a 190-million shortfall.

Tedros also called on various major pharmaceutical companies to either increase their COVAX commitments, speed up delivery or reach agreements with the vaccine platform.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore quoted research which showed that G7 and European countries could make 153 million vaccine doses available if they shared 20% of their supply for June, July and August.

Tedros added that manufacturers needed to give the right of first refusal to COVAX for any additional dose capacity and also enter into their deals with companies like Teva, Incepta, Biolyse and others that are willing to use their facilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

This follows a report by Politico that large vaccine manufacturers had so far failed to take up offers by smaller manufacturers – Bangladesh’s Incepta, Canada’s Biolyse, Israel’s Teva, and Bavarian Nordic in Denmark – to assist with vaccine manufacturing.

Bruce Aylward, WHO’s lead at COVAX, stressed that the vaccine platform’s aim to vaccinate 20% of the world’s people by the end of the year was “at risk” because of supply shortages.


Image Credits: NBC, NBC News.

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