Three priorities to urgently increase access to COVID-19 vaccines
Innovative biopharmaceutical companies are at the forefront of the global effort to develop and manufacture safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Today, over 12 billion doses of vaccines have been produced, and more than 60 percent of the world’s population have received at least one dose.
Getting as many people as possible vaccinated remains critical to our pandemic response. Even in the face of new variants, including most recently Omicron, current vaccines show continued protection from infection and significant effectiveness against hospitalization and death. For those people who do contract COVID-19 or are at-risk, several approved treatments are now an important and integral part of combatting COVID-19.
Whilst significant progress has been made, COVID-19 vaccines are still not reaching equitably all priority populations worldwide. In May 2021, the innovative biopharmaceutical companies publicly committed to continue working with governments, international institutions, and non-governmental organizations to address vaccine inequity.
Over the past six months, governments that have significant domestic supplies of COVID-19 vaccines have increasingly shared them with low- and lower-middle-income countries and vaccine manufacturers have continued to further ramp up production, including through voluntary licensing and technology transfer across several continents.
By the end of January 2022, COVAX delivered its first billion vaccine doses. In addition, over 3 billion doses have been delivered to low- and lower-middle-income countries. Moving forwards, we expect that a significant number of doses will continue to be delivered to low- and lower-middle-income countries.
Our collective efforts are materializing, but to achieve an improvement in vaccine equity, manufacturers, governments, international institutions, and other non-governmental organizations must redouble efforts to support countries as they mobilize to execute national vaccine rollouts and remove barriers to the efficient distribution and administration of vaccine doses, so that they reach those who need them most.
To support this endeavor, innovative biopharmaceutical companies will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders on the following three overarching priorities and supporting activities:
Step up support for country readiness to roll out COVID-19 vaccine doses:
• Work collaboratively with governments and established procurement mechanisms, such as COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), to improve COVID-19 vaccine demand forecasting, alignment of deliveries and donations, distribution and administration, particularly in low- and lower-middle income countries.
• Continue engaging and sharing information with COVAX and other relevant organizations to ensure countries have better visibility of COVAX deliveries and donations.
• Provide timely information to assist with regulatory system streamlining and appropriate flexibilities to smooth the path for the reallocation of doses, and enable swift approval of new COVID-19 vaccines and manufacturing facilities.
• Continue to increase confidence in vaccines and vaccination programs, particularly by countering misinformation, providing timely vaccine effectiveness and safety data, and supporting adequate no-fault compensation programs.
• Continue to encourage governments to expand the number of vaccinators in countries to be able to rapidly deploy supply.
Contribute to equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses:
• Continue to work with governments that have significant supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to improve dose sharing with low- and lower-middle-income countries in a responsible and timely way, through COVAX or other efficient established mechanisms such as AVAT.
• Expend every effort to make uncommitted COVID-19 vaccine doses available with urgency to prioritized populations in low- and lower-middle income countries through COVAX or other efficient established mechanisms.
• Work with relevant authorities to facilitate recognition of an extension to the COVID-19 vaccine shelf-life and batch-level extensions in line with ongoing studies looking at the stability of vaccines, to avoid vaccine wastage.
• Encourage the elimination of remaining trade and regulatory barriers to support cross-border supply and free flow of goods, raw materials, services, and personnel needed for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, distribution, and administration.
• Support efforts that tackle supply chain and logistic bottlenecks to increase vaccination rates.
Continue to drive innovation:
• Continue to prioritize research to develop the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines that can provide long lasting and strong protection against variants of concern, and address logistical issues in storage, delivery, and administration.
• Urge governments to guarantee unhindered access to pathogens (samples and sequences) of any COVID-19 variants to support the rapid development of potential new vaccines and treatments.
• Continue to optimize production of vaccines, without compromising safety and quality, including through existing and additional voluntary collaborations with partners that can produce significant quantities.
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