- A year since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered, vaccine makers including biotechnology firms, developing and developed country manufacturers say voluntary collaboration to share innovation has been a key enabler for manufacturing output to reach 11,2 billion doses in 2021.
- The historic manufacturing scale up is overshadowed by a shared concern that COVID-19 vaccines are not reaching all who need them. While the current output from vaccine manufacturers is theoretically enough to vaccinate everyone, urgent, concrete measures are needed to support the hoped-for surge in COVID-19 vaccine uptake in countries with currently low vaccination rates.
- In 2021, vaccine manufacturers demonstrated how they are uniquely positioned to rapidly innovate and manufacture effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines. Together with the broader scientific community, public health, and regulatory bodies around the world, industry will again bring this experience and expertise to bear on new variants such as Omicron.
Geneva, 16 December 2021 – The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN), and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), representing many of the companies behind the historic scale up of manufacturing of vaccines, released independent data that confirms production of COVID-19 vaccines scaled up from zero to 11,2 billion doses in just one year. Supplies have been distributed unevenly, but countries have started to release surplus doses so that they can be shared. Today, with a surge in doses from the international partnership set up to distribute vaccines to lower-income countries, called COVAX, as well as bilateral arrangements, the focus must now be on reducing the time between arrival of vaccines to vaccinations.
The manufacturing scale up of COVID-19 vaccines that had been developed in record time required building new production lines able to consistently produce millions of doses to the highest quality standards, managing global supply chains for hundreds of components and ingredients, as well as forging over 300 partnerships around the world to increase manufacturing output. Of these deals, 229 include various forms of voluntary collaboration that rely on technology transfer, sharing of know-how about the processes and the technologies used to make the vaccines, as well as training specialist personnel to ensure quality standards.
The 2021 supply of COVID-19 vaccines resulted in half of the world’s population being vaccinated within a year. Independent analysis by Airfinity has shown that, by the end of March 2022, G7 and EU countries are projected to have 1,4 billion surplus vaccines, even when administering boosters.
Dose-sharing is gaining momentum to reach those who have not yet been vaccinated, and COVAX is ramping up fast to ensure doses are distributed equitably around the world. Today, more than 700 million doses have been shipped by COVAX to 144 countries; and nearly 1 billion doses ordered.
Rapid and efficient delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, inclusive of dose-sharing, requires effective and flexible coordination and planning. Attention is urgently needed to focus on concrete measures in recipient countries to support COVID-19 vaccine deployment and uptake:
- Political prioritization, funding, infrastructure and human resources must be sufficient to deliver vaccines safely, including upscaling cold chain capabilities from airfields to the last mile and increasing health workforce numbers to deliver the vaccines even in areas that are hard to reach, and without compromising routine immunization.
- Extension of vaccine shelf life, with the increase in dose-sharing and distribution of vaccines, coupled with the challenges related to country absorption, innovation and regulatory oversight is needed so that shelf life is extended, in line with ongoing studies looking at the stability of vaccines, to ensure vaccines are not wasted.
- Regulatory approval even before doses reach countries, requires the World Health Organization (WHO) and national regulatory authorities to work together to ensure that the vaccines are approved at national level, so that doses can be deployed immediately.
- Addressing vaccine hesitancy requires collective focus as there continue to be pockets of people that, after 18 months of safety data and over 8 billion doses administered around the planet, remain hesitant towards COVID-19 vaccines.
This past year has demonstrated industry’s ability to be agile and respond to new challenges but has also underlined the importance of pursuing innovation. While some companies have failed in their endeavours, there is still a strong and thriving pipeline of innovation for adapted and new vaccines. The current intellectual property framework that supports the innovation eco-system will enable the development of new generations of vaccines that provide longer lasting and stronger protection, and are easier to transport, store, and administer, as well as new treatments to respond to current and new variants.
Thomas Cueni, Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA):
“Vaccine manufacturers have delivered on their promise of innovation breakthroughs and have ramping up manufacturing output to historic levels. There have been setbacks, not least the unequal distribution of vaccines. Since May, we have been flagging supplies are sufficient to vaccinate all those who need protection and calling for urgent, planned and efficient redistribution of doses. We’re ready to continue innovating in the light of new variants, and to persevere in our efforts to produce more doses, but we call for greater commitment and urgency to remove the barriers which prevent getting vaccine into people’s arms”.
Sai Prasad, Executive Director, Quality Operations, Bharat Biotech, and President, Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN):
“The complexity of vaccine development and manufacturing cannot be overstated, which is why the production levels we are seeing today merit to be celebrated. As doses leave factories, it is vital that they reach those who need them the most”.
Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President & CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO):
“Unprecedented levels of collaboration between large and small biotech companies has enabled the breakthrough innovation – in the form of vaccines and therapeutics – we need to fight COVID-19. Our scientists and researchers remain committed to improving public health by discovering new scientific tools to protect us from infectious diseases and to working with global partners to increase health equity around the world”.
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|Rajinder Suri||Jacy Gomez
For more information:
- IFPMA COVID-19 Information Hub, with examples of how the biopharmaceutical industry is leading the way in developing vaccines, treatments and diagnostics
- Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN)
- Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)
BIO is the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations.
Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN) is a voluntary public health-driven alliance of vaccine manufacturers from developing countries, firmly engaged in research, development, manufacturing and supply of high-quality vaccines that are accessible to protect people against known and emerging infectious diseases globally.
IFPMA represents the research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations across the globe. IFPMA collaborates with the United Nations and other organisations to contribute to industry expertise in helping the global health community find solutions that improve global health. IFPMA is a founding partner of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator of which the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) is a key pillar. IFPMA members are fully committed to the goal of COVAX to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to safe, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines.