Africa: Who Director-General’s Opening Remarks At the Media Briefing On Covid-19 – 5 March 2021

This was a landmark week for COVAX. In total, COVAX has delivered more than 20 million doses of vaccine to 20 countries. In the next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million doses to a further 31 countries.
The volume of doses being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small. One of our main priorities now is to increase the ambition of COVAX to help all countries end the pandemic.
This means urgent action to ramp up production. Next week, WHO and our COVAX partners will meet with partners from governments and the industry to identify bottlenecks in production and discuss how to solve them.

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.
As you know, this was a landmark week for COVAX, with the first vaccinations starting in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
In addition to those two countries, COVAX has now delivered vaccines to Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda.
In total, COVAX has delivered more than 20 million doses of vaccine to 20 countries. In the next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million doses to a further 31 countries. That brings the total number of countries to 51.
Earlier this week, COVAX published the first round of allocations, covering the majority of economies participating in the COVAX Facility.
This is encouraging progress, but the volume of doses being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small.

The first round of allocations covers between 2 and 3 percent of the population of countries receiving vaccines through COVAX, even as other countries make rapid progress towards vaccinating their entire population within the next few months.
One of our main priorities now is to increase the ambition of COVAX to help all countries end the pandemic.
This means urgent action to ramp up production.
We currently face several barriers to increasing the speed and volume of production, from export bans to shortages of raw materials including glass, plastic and stoppers.
WHO is working on four approaches:
The first and most short-term approach is to connect companies who are producing vaccines with other companies who have excess capacity to fill and finish.
This could help to speed up production and increase volumes.

For example, part of the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck announced this week is for Merck to provide fill and finish for the J&J vaccine.
We need more partnerships like this, and we need them in all regions. WHO can support this process by identifying gaps and providing a “matchmaking” service between vaccine producers and companies with capacity.
The second approach is bilateral technology transfer, through voluntary licensing from a company that owns the patents on a vaccine to another company who can produce them.

A good example of this approach is AstraZeneca, which has transferred the technology for its vaccine to SKBio in the Republic of Korea and the Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca vaccines for COVAX.
The main disadvantage of this approach is the lack of transparency.
The third approach is coordinated technology transfer.
This would involve universities and manufacturers licensing their vaccines to other companies through a global mechanism coordinated by WHO, which would also facilitate the training of staff at the recipient companies, and coordinate investments in infrastructure.
This provides more transparency, and a more coherent global approach that contributes to regional health security.
And it’s a mechanism that would increase production capacity not only for this pandemic, but for future pandemics and potentially for the production of vaccines for routine immunization programmes.
In fact, WHO has done this before.
After the spread of H5N1 influenza in the mid-2000s, WHO supported technology transfer for the production of pandemic flu vaccines to 14 countries, increasing global capacity by more than 700 million doses.
And fourth, many countries with vaccine manufacturing capacity can start producing their own vaccines by waiving intellectual property rights, as provided for in the TRIPS agreement.
Those provisions are there for use in emergencies. If now is not a time to use them, then when? This is unprecedented time, and WHO believes that this is a time to trigger that provision and waive patent rights.

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We thank South Africa and India for their proposal to the World Trade Organization to waive patents on medical products for COVID-19 until the end of this unprecedented pandemic.
Next week, WHO and our COVAX partners will meet with partners from governments and the industry to identify bottlenecks in production and discuss how to solve them.
To speak more about the potential for technology transfer, today I’m delighted to be joined by Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, the Chair of the Medicines Patent Pool Foundation.
Marie-Paule is no stranger to WHO. Until 2017, she served as WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation. She is now the Director of Research at Inserm, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris.
Marie-Paule, it’s always a pleasure to welcome you back to WHO. You have the floor.
[DR KIENY ADDRESSED THE MEDIA]
Thank you, Marie-Paule, and thank you so much for your continued support and collaboration. Merci beaucoup.
Christian, back to you.

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