Pharmaceutical companies invited to share coronavirus vaccine technology

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The Global North is not only getting vaccinated, but also receiving boosters to protect themselves against the coronavirus. Meanwhile, in the poorest countries, only 6 percent received as much as a first blow.

If Covid-19 and its emerging variants are to be stopped, poor countries need not only the capacity to manufacture vaccines, but also the technology behind these vaccines that have been proven to stem the spread of Covid-19.

“We would need billions of available vaccines,” said Mary Beth Powers, president and CEO of the New York-based Catholic Medical Mission Board, which provides long-term medical and development assistance to communities affected by poverty and unequal access to health care, focusing on the health of women and children.

“Production in the North is increasing, so we should have almost sufficient supplies,” she added, “but that was before we started to factor in boosters.”

Powers, in a Dec. 22 phone interview with Catholic News Service, said: “We should view the Covid vaccine as a public good – not a private need,” just like with previous measles, diphtheria, polio vaccines. and whooping cough. “We should have had a better plan… or an idea of ​​how to transfer the technology” once the vaccines were approved for use.

At a Covid-19 summit in September this year, according to Powers, attendees set a goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by next September. However, “we are a long way away” from that goal, she said. “We are maybe 6% of emerging markets in low and middle income countries. We are way behind where we need to be.”

They are already providing booster doses to their population while others have not even received a first dose

The governments of the richest countries have been able to buy millions of doses for their citizens. But the bill from the drug companies is “out of the price bracket of other countries, and they’ve started getting people vaccinated much more slowly,” Powers said.

Rather than compete with richer countries for what is still a fairly scarce resource, Powers said vaccine makers need to share the technology behind their vaccines.

“There is the element of vaccine inventories and anticipated market commitments,” Powers said. “The Covid vaccine was bought by high-income countries, it’s true. They are already providing booster doses to their populations while others have not even received a first dose.”

She acknowledged the argument that “more vaccines are produced – but they must be distributed to achieve equity”. Plus, Powers said, they need to be “distributed around the world so that we never end up in this place again.”

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She added: “The public-private partnership that has created quite effective vaccines. But as long as public goods are held by private interests, we will never achieve equity.”

Powers compared the ability to make vaccines to being in a kitchen: “When you want to produce something in your kitchen – you try to bake a cake – you have to have a recipe, you have to have the ingredients to make the cake. , and you must have a functional kitchen. “

She added, “Our government has invested heavily in developing these recipes and technological know-how. If it could be shared, we could get closer to the global goals: 70% of the world vaccinated by next September.

But the pharmaceutical companies developing the vaccines were unwilling to share the recipe.

The US government “has invested in the development of the Moderna vaccine, but it is also unwilling to share technological know-how so that it can be produced elsewhere,” Powers said. Moderna also received a flurry of criticism when its patent application for the coronavirus vaccine failed to recognize any American role.

Many people are working on creative ways to solve this problem in order to make these vaccines available to other providers.

Powers also cited a report released earlier in December by Doctors Without Borders that a Spanish company had secured the rights to produce the Moderna vaccine, “but it has not received the full transfer of technology that would be required to produce the vaccine. “.

She told CNS: “If a fund were created that could actually buy the technological know-how and share it more widely – functional kitchens with manufacturers who have the capacity to produce the vaccine… a lot of people are working on them. creative ways to solve this problem to make these vaccines available to other suppliers. “

Until then, she added, “we’re coming back to ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’ with the omicron variant.”

Powers said she didn’t know how much such an effort would cost. But with a worldwide Covid-19 death toll approaching 5.4 million, some may argue that the cost of not making the effort is higher.

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