Biopharmaceutical industry welcomes COVID-19 vaccine-sharing pledges but warn challenges remain to urgently address vaccine inequity, –
Recent announcements today by G7 countries and last month by G20 countries of over 1 billion doses to be made available to low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries in 2020 and 2021 is an important step towards advancing fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world. Thankfully, the doses are available, not least because the global biopharmaceutical industry is on track to produce at least 10 billion doses by end 2021 of which 3,5 billion doses have been made in new commitments for COVAX last month at the G20 Global Health Summit. But vaccine equity will only be achieved if the doses are distributed efficiently and with due regard to the capacity of different LMICs to roll out their immunization plans across their priority populations.
Organizations representing the innovative vaccine manufacturers and biotech companies involved in the historic scaling up of vaccines manufacturing announced on 19th May 2021 their “Five steps to urgently advance COVID-19 vaccine equity”, where they committed to working with governments, IGOs and NGOs to support stepping up dose sharing, continue efforts to optimize production, call out trade barriers to be eliminated, support country readiness, and continue driving innovation.
This weekend’s announcements from the G7 in the UK send a welcome and very important signal to the world: that it is not acceptable to deepen inequity by ignoring that whole swathes of the world have yet to vaccinate their healthcare workers and their most vulnerable populations, while a dozen of countries have sufficient doses to be considering vaccinating school children. Enlightened self interest which recognizes that sustained dose sharing across the globe is the only way out of this global health crisis, – says Thomas Cueni, Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).
To date, 2 billion doses have been pledged in Q1 2021 by innovative vaccine manufacturers and biotech companies, a further 3,5 billion doses were pledged at cost or discounted to LMICs to COVAX or other established mechanisms at the G20 (May 2021). As manufacturing output picks up momentum, industry is confident that it will make the estimated 10 billion plus dose target by the end of 2021; with over 2,2 billion doses already produced by the end of May. But reaching the World Health Organization’s targets of 10% of the world’s population vaccinated by September and 30% by the end of the year depends swift translation of the pledges into action that allows a planned efficient and sustained roll out. According to UNICEF, G7 countries could donate 20% of available vaccines to COVAX now, without any significant delay in current plans to vaccinate their adult population.
The current pledges of over 1 billion doses to COVAX are welcome, but it will be important to work closely with LMICs to ensure that they are ready and able to deploy available doses within their shelf life.