News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Agreement to facilitate equitable access to COVID vaccines

Health Industry Hub | September 23, 2020 |
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Pharma News: 156 economies committed to participate in an agreement, including 64 higher income economies, to represent the best chance the world has to ensure that by 2021, 64% of the global population has access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

With the Commitment Agreements secured, the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers, which are partners in the COVAX effort, to secure the doses needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.

“Governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is coordinating the COVAX Facility. “With the commitments we’re announcing today for the COVAX Facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe, effective vaccines become available.”

IFPMA, the body representing the biopharmaceutical industry globally is a founding member of the ACT-Accelerator of which the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) is a key pillar. The vaccine industry has a seat at the table in acknowledgement of the industry’s key role in research, development and its expertise in being able to scale up manufacturing to unprecedented levels.

“It is very encouraging to see so many countries move from talk to full commitment. The Facility can only work, and equitable access can only be achieved, if there is solidarity between rich and poorer countries. Today vaccine makers who have the unique skills and expertise to scale up manufacturing to levels never seen before, stand ready, together, to take up the challenge of providing two billion doses of yet unknown COVID-19 vaccines. This is no mean feat, as it requires doubling existing capacity in record time. Today, marks a significant step forward, and is a historic mark of solidarity which has the power to bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end; and we are proud to be part of this unique endeavour to leave no one behind” said Thomas Cueni, Director General of the IFPMA.

From day one, vaccine makers have stepped up in an unprecedented manner, with leading innovative companies devoting resources, expertise, know-how and intellectual assets to developing potential vaccines. However, we are deeply aware that science and innovation are only part of the equation. As part of our responsibility towards society, we must also ensure equitable global access to safe, high quality, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines. This is why it is so important to partner with multilateral organizations like the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and CEPI to identify the global need and, along with donor governments and philanthropic foundations, address the unique challenges faced by low-income and middle-income countries.

The allocation of vaccines, once licensed and approved, will be guided by an Allocation Framework released today by WHO following the principle of fair and equitable access, ensuring no participating economy will be left behind. Policies determining the prioritisation of vaccine rollout within economies will be guided by recommendations from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE), which has recently released a Values Framework laying the groundwork for subsequent guidance on target populations and policies on vaccine use.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery. Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”

“This is a landmark moment in the history of public health with the international community coming together to tackle this pandemic. The global spread of COVID-19 means that it is only through equitable and simultaneous access to new lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines that we can hope to end this pandemic”, said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “Countries coming together in this way shows a unity of purpose and resolve to end the acute phase of this pandemic, and we must now work closely with vaccine manufacturers – who play an integral part in the global response – to put in place the agreements needed to fulfil COVAX’s core aim: to have two billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021. Today, we have taken a great leap towards that goal, for the benefit of all.”

The success of COVAX hinges not only on economies signing up to the COVAX Facility and commitments from vaccine manufacturers, but also filling key funding gaps for both COVAX research and development (R&D) work and the Gavi COVAX AMC to support participation of lower income economies in the COVAX Facility.

Governments, vaccine manufacturers (in addition to their own R&D), organisations and individuals have committed US$ 1.4 billion towards vaccine R&D so far, but a further US$ 700-800 million is urgently needed to continue to move the portfolio forward in addition to US$ 300 million to fund WHO’s SOLIDARITY trial.

The Gavi COVAX AMC has raised around US$ 700 million from sovereign donors as well as philanthropy and the private sector, against an initial target of US$ 2 billion in seed funding needed by the end of 2020. Funding the Gavi COVAX AMC will be critical to ensuring ability to pay is not a barrier to accessing COVID-19 vaccines, a situation which would leave the majority of the world unprotected, with the pandemic and its impact continuing unabated.

The Commitment Agreements also commit higher income governments to provide an upfront payment to reserve doses by 9 October 2020. These funds will be used to accelerate the scale-up of vaccine manufacturing to secure two billion doses of vaccine, enough to vaccinate one billion people assuming the vaccine requires a two-dose regimen.

As we continue working towards a common shared goal of bringing the pandemic to an end, we must also prepare for the obstacles that we face in reaching vulnerable populations in each corner of the world. This includes manufacturing at risk billions of doses of a yet unknown vaccine thus doubling if not tripling current capacity, as well as preparing for a massive distribution of vaccines that may have unique logistical attributes.


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