Sharing technology and supporting innovation to stop pandemics

Disparities have shaped response efforts to harmful pathogens. In the case of the response to the “Covid-19” pandemic, for example, an unprecedented 11.9 billion doses of vaccines were given around the world, helping many countries reverse the course of the pandemic. In contrast, more than 80 percent of the African population has not received even a single dose, approximately 18 months after the first person was vaccinated. As long as this gap exists, we will not be able to protect the world from new virus mutants and end the acute phase of this pandemic.
Thanks to the ground-breaking innovations, effective vaccines to protect against “Covid-19” have been developed in record time. However, in the beginning of the vaccination campaigns, very few countries, mostly rich countries, were able to monopolize the production of vaccines and other health technologies. The poorest countries ended up at the bottom of the waiting list. However, the situation soon changed, when global supply exceeded global demand. The international community, led by the Accessibility Accelerator and the Kovacs Facility, has played a critical role in achieving this goal, stressing that the response to plagues such as “Covid-19” requires widespread preparedness and new methods of action to to protect public health.
The world now faces major challenges in identifying ways to ensure that vaccines remain effective, strengthening the capacity of national public health systems to deliver doses and increase uptake, and addressing the deluge of incorrect information that fosters reluctance to take vaccines.
One of the clear lessons we have learned from this pandemic is that we need to expand domestic and regional production of vaccines and other essential health products in low- and middle-income countries. Through this, direct access to vaccines will be possible, as well as the development of local ecosystems for the production of vaccines. It would also make supplies more reliable and fairer in the event of a coming crisis, as long as global supply chains function uninterrupted.
The World Health Organization, the African Union, the European Union, the governments of South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Germany, France and partners are working to help industry and partners increase local vaccine production and improve global and regional cooperation to prevent and to respond to future pandemics. Collective investment in ensuring that advanced production infrastructure, trained personnel and institutional and organizational arrangements are available in all regions of the world is a valuable asset for our common health security.
The organization supports a multilateral effort to develop and disseminate messenger RNA technology in developing countries.
A year ago, the WHO, South Africa and the Medicines Patent Pool established a center for technology transfer of RNA vaccines in Cape Town. [1]With the support of the European Union, France, Germany and other local and international partners. This center aims to spread this technology in developing countries by providing training and licensing to manufacturers to produce their vaccines for use at national and regional levels.
The center is beginning to bear fruit, thanks to the support of donors. Scientists have designed a new vaccine using RNA technology, based on publicly available information. Domestic manufacturers from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe have been selected to receive this technology. Partners in the Medicines patent pool have indicated their willingness to assist in licensing these technologies. The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, a new initiative of the African Development Bank, will contribute to this effort.
Parts of the private sector are also making strenuous efforts in this regard. The RNA messenger vaccine production facility in Africa, built by the German company BioNTech, and whose inauguration ceremony was held in Rwanda last month, is another example of the efforts African countries are making to work with partners to build resilience to improve against pandemics. . Similar facilities will be established in Senegal, in collaboration with Ghana, to provide vaccine packaging and processing services.
The use of RNA technology is not limited to the fight against “Covid-19”, but it can also be adapted to treat other diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and leishmaniasis, enabling countries to take leadership positions in to produce the necessary tools. to meet her health needs. At a recent summit in Kigali, BioNTech committed to complete its malaria vaccine program and manufacture any licensed product in Africa. The WHO Center for the Transfer of RNA Technology in South Africa has set its sights on developing a wide range of vaccines and other products aimed at addressing disease threats, such as insulin for diabetes, cancer drugs, and potentially vaccines for other priority diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus.
Although building a vaccine production facility is not easy, the biggest problem is ensuring its sustainability.
First, the capabilities of the workforce must be improved by providing tailored training for those working in those facilities.
WHO is working to fill this gap through a biomanufacturing training center in the Republic of Korea, operating within the framework of the WHO Academy, which is based in Lyon, France; This is to help developing countries produce vaccines, insulin, monoclonal antibodies and cancer treatments. Rwanda recently launched the African Bioprocessing Institute (ABI), an innovative body that brings together industry and university training providers to train the local workforce.
Second, the production of sanitary products requires robust regulatory capabilities to ensure that quality standards and approval of final products are met. FAO and its partners are investing in strengthening regulators across Africa and beyond. The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union Development Agency are working with regulators on the continent and in high-income countries to increase their capacity. The African Medicines Agency, headquartered in Rwanda, has come into operation and will become the regulatory body for medicines on the African continent.
Strengthening regulatory agencies in developing countries will also help build confidence in locally manufactured products and counter disinformation and unsafe counterfeit medicines.
Third, the new production facilities will rely heavily on a sustainable and competitive market environment in which suppliers of vaccines and other new pharmaceutical products are willing to acquire these life-saving tools. We recognize the need for African vaccine-producing countries, now and in the future, to benefit from vaccine procurement platforms, such as the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, and other platforms. Market formation strategies at regional and continental levels, as identified by the African Vaccine Manufacturing Partnership, can ensure the sustainability of ongoing efforts, while key market formation agencies and partners, such as the International Drug Procurement Facility, stand ready to provide support. The G7 leaders addressed this issue and requested the relevant international actors to work out a common strategy for market formation.
At the recent meeting of the World Health Assembly, there was consensus on the need to build strong and sustainable manufacturing capabilities in developing countries for a safer world.
WHO member states also discussed the need for a new treaty on pandemics; Because the interdependence of the world requires globally agreed standards and mechanisms to ensure close coordination in times of acute health crises.
Crucially in this context, governments have recognized the urgent need for additional financing to implement the necessary investments in pandemic preparedness and response capabilities in countries, regions and globally. In this regard, we welcome the recently established “Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Financial Intermediation Fund”, hosted by the World Bank, and the World Health Organization playing a central technical leadership role in it.
We are aware that the outbreak of the next pandemic is not a question of “what if?”, but rather a question of “when?”; Therefore, the time factor has become crucial in intensifying cooperation, promoting local manufacturing and building confidence in locally manufactured products so that we will be more prepared next time.
We look forward to working with countries and manufacturers to realize this fundamental vision, for a healthier and safer tomorrow.

* Rwandan President Paul Kagame – French President Emmanuel Macron – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

* Exclusive to the Middle East.

Leave a Comment