The Omicron variant underscores the global stakes of Covid-19 vaccine inequity – Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts 2021-11-29 15:17:35 –

NSThe sudden emergence of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is putting pressure on vaccine makers to ensure that their shots are available worldwide, but companies are boosting global production. It is unclear whether it will provide the intellectual know-how and technology to help.

After the emergence of the coronavirus last year, wealthy nations quickly procured supplies by signing lucrative contracts and, in some cases, funding manufacturers for development. However, doing so will widen the gap between rich and poor countries, and if a large area of ​​humanity remains unvaccinated, “vaccine inequality” will plague the world. It led to a warning.

The variant of Omicron is the moment “we said so to you”.


Public health advocates have been advised by the World Trade Organization as vaccine makers are scrambling to determine if existing shots are useful for variants or if they need to be modified. We are calling for adoption of a proposal to temporarily abandon intellectual property made over a year ago. Property rights so that other companies can also manufacture vaccines.

Ellen Owen, Principal Investigator, Global Health Unit, University of Groningen, said: Former executive director of the drug patent pool, which works with Groningen in the Netherlands and pharmaceutical companies to license drugs in low-income countries.


“Vaccine nationalism, vaccine storage, and the knowledge needed to produce a vaccine will perpetuate the situation. Companies are currently working on adjusting vaccines to make them unique to Omicron. The destination for the first batch of vaccines must be Africa. IP exemptions must be adopted, but with a commitment to achieve technology transfer as well. “

Africa is of particular concern, as only 6% of 1.2 billion people on the African continent have been inoculated and the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa. So far, about 44% of Covid-19 vaccine doses have been directed to wealthy countries, and almost the entire continent of Africa is covered by contracts to provide doses, according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. It remains absent.

A World Health Organization program called COVAX, launched last year to solicit vaccine donations, is also lagging behind. Over 90 million doses have been distributed to Africa through the program and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, Most donations According to WHO, the African Union and other organizations, it is ad hoc, has few notices and has a short shelf life.

This helps explain why the WTO proposal is the flash point of the global battle against pandemics.

NS First suggestion It covers the protection of patents, designs, copyrights and trade secrets. In theory, such an exemption could make it easier for a country that grants a compulsory license to allow a domestic manufacturer to export a vaccine. NS WTO agreement By reaching 2001, countries can issue compulsory permits, but many claim that the language is inadequate for a pandemic.

However, this proposal is opposed because it is located in the pharmaceutical industry and some wealthy countries, mainly in Europe, and the company is headquartered or has substantial facilities. The clash reflects a long-standing debate over patent rights, and many major pharmaceutical companies claim that it does not pose a barrier to increased access. Patient advocates oppose companies being too interested in profits.

Surprisingly, the Biden administration in May decided to support the proposal, but so far it bridges the gap between other wealthy countries and dozens of low- and middle-income countries claiming to hire. I couldn’t. The WTO needs consensus from all 164 members for the proposal to be adopted.

As a result, this proposal is in disagreement on the fundamental question of whether exemptions are appropriate and the most effective way to address the unfair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. I got stuck. The WTO Ministerial Conference was scheduled for this week and a report was to be submitted, but it has been postponed due to a variant of Omicron and has not yet been rescheduled.

But last week, active activity took place shortly before the emergence of new variants.

European Commission has proposed’Targeted waiver‘About compulsory license. However, the move was ridiculed because no exemption was required for the country to issue such a license. Professor Brook Baker of Northeastern University, who specializes in access to medicines and intellectual property and is a senior policy analyst at Health GAP, said the idea was “basically meaningless” and public relations was “stunt.” Said that.

At the same time, more than 20 patient advocacy and human rights groups have sent letters to the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Norway threatening to take legal action if countries do not support the WTO exemption proposal. .. The group argued that blocking the adoption of the exemption would violate its legal obligations to fulfill its international human rights obligations.

“The United Nations Human Rights Convention Oversight Agency has also revealed that non-supporting exemptions violates obligations under approved international human rights treaties and other international human rights laws. These include health and life. Includes the obligation of international cooperation to secure the right to. ” letter He told Canada’s Minister of International Trade Mary Ng.

Given that Omicron variants are accelerating concerns, we asked some vaccine manufacturers if they would consider accepting the proposal. BioNTech (BNTX) The spokesperson wrote to us: You can wait for the data from the lab test and then provide the next step update. “

In a statement, Pfizer’s spokesperson (PFE) Pointed out that in partnership with BioNTech, the two companies donated 91.5 million doses to 37 African countries. Pfizer argued that availability was not an issue, pointing out vaccine hesitation, slow uptake, and vulnerabilities in the healthcare system infrastructure as “key challenges.”

The exemption proposal is “based on the false belief that access to vaccines is restricted due to current production levels. It is not. The industry has already produced enough vaccines worldwide by mid-next year. The exemption does not provide a practical solution to improve access to vaccines, “the company claims, and the proposal addresses trade barriers and is at the forefront of vaccination. He added that he would not assist healthcare professionals or implement a dose-sharing program.

However, such a response does not address production challenges. To that end, WHO recently announced plans for an African manufacturing hub to create multiple locations for manufacturing vaccines. But so far, none of the vaccine makers have lent their support. Instead, Pfizer and BioNTech have partnered with a South African company, but only for final stage production, not actual vaccine production.

so Recent interview Together with us, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin argued that WHO’s manufacturing hub and the hope that African companies could supply the African continent is a valuable goal. However, he argued that more details needed to be organized and that an “ecosystem” of manufacturing with uniform safety and quality standards needed to be put in place.

The Biden administration earlier this month is trying to provide a temporary gap Announced plan Invest billions of dollars to expand US manufacturing capacity, aiming for at least 1 billion doses annually by late 2022. The fund will support the production of vaccines using mRNA technology, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.MRNA).

However, the Biden administration has been caught up in the controversy over the Moderna vaccine patent and is urging patient advocates to exercise their rights to increase access to poor countries. In fact, the South African company Frigen Biologics and Vaccines uses publicly available information and support from outside advisors to make copies of the Moderna vaccine. However, if the recipe is made available to the company, the period could be reduced from three years to one year.

“This variant shows that there should have been two clear priorities in the early days of the pandemic, one is to significantly increase production capacity and reach global scale. The other is to remove barriers to technology transfer technology and IP, allowing companies around the world to manufacture vaccines, “said Peter Maibalduk, who leads access to public citizens’ pharmaceutical projects. .. Support group.

“In the United States, there was Operation Warp Speed. This expanded the size of the United States, but excluded other parts of the world. This was a serious oversight. Recipes are now available worldwide. The U.S. needs to take a very active role in transferring mRNA vaccine technology to other governments, as the timeline can be significantly shorter. Obviously it’s too late for Omicron, Important for future variants. “

The Omicron variant underscores the global stakes of Covid-19 vaccine inequity Source link The Omicron variant underscores the global stakes of Covid-19 vaccine inequity

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