Vaccine makers and biotech companies Wednesday called for urgent measures to share coronavirus doses and inoculate the entire world’s adult population by the end of the year.
In a joint global statement, they also urged coordination with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to remove regulatory barriers to export raw materials.
The groups include the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
They made their appeal as world health officials have stressed the dire need to get COVID-fighting drugs to poorer nations and the rich ones to effectively fight the global pandemic and to share knowledge and intellectual property.
“Manufacturers, governments, and non-governmental organizations must work together to take urgent steps to further address this inequity,” the groups said after a call earlier this week by World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Ghebreyesus.
“Immediate action must focus on stepping up responsible dose sharing and maximizing production without compromising quality or safety.”
The groups want to step up dose-sharing by immediately partnering with governments that have significant domestic supplies of COVID-19 vaccine doses to share a substantial proportion of their stock with low- and lower-middle-income countries.
The sharing should be done “in a responsible and timely way through COVAX or other efficient established mechanisms,” the groups said.
COVAX is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The pharmaceutical groups said after more than 200 clinical trials and nearly 300 partnerships and collaborations among manufacturers worldwide, production has shot up.
In a few months, it has gone from zero to 2.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of May, with an estimated 11 billion doses to be developed by the end of 2021.
“This will be enough doses to vaccinate the world’s adult population,” said the groups.
They called for identifying trade barriers for essential input materials and support for CEPI’s effort to create an independent platform that would identify and address gaps.
“We urge governments, in coordination with the WTO, to eliminate all trade and regulatory barriers to export,” the groups said.
They also said they want them to “adopt policies that facilitate and expedite the cross-border supply of key raw materials, essential manufacturing materials, vaccines along with the prioritized movement of skilled workforces needed for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing.”
Ghebreyesus told the Paris Peace Forum Spring Meeting on May 17 that high-income countries account for 15% of the world’s population but have 45% of the world’s vaccines.
“Low- and lower-middle countries account for almost half of the world’s population but have received just 17% of the world’s vaccines. So the gap is really huge,” said Tedros.
He called for sharing financial resources to fully fund the distribution of vaccines through the COVAX facility.
He said there is a need for sharing doses with COVAX, the fastest and most equitable way to distribute vaccines, tests, and treatments globally.
“And third, it is sharing technology, know-how, and intellectual property to scale up manufacturing of vaccines,” said the WHO chief.