Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research
COVID Vaccines – Industry, IP/TRIPS, Manufacturing
COVID-19 vaccine industry cautions immediate action needed to remove manufacturing supply barriers to meet production
23 April 2021
:: On the 1st anniversary of ACT-Accelerator, COVID-19 vaccine makers representing biotechnology firms, developing and developed country manufacturers renew their commitment to produce sufficient vaccines to meet world needs.
:: Increased production output of COVID-19 vaccines is forecast and can be attributed to over 200 manufacturing deals coming online and greater efficiency of a complex process, however, the manufacturing scale up depends on overcoming major manufacturing supply challenges.
:: Vaccine industry warns that their manufacturing scale up projections are dependent on immediate action being taken to promote the free flow of goods and trade as well as better visibility of demands on supplies.
23 April 2021: Washington DC, Geneva, Hyderabad: The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) are all key players in the historic effort to scale up the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines. All three entities signed up as partners of ACT-Accelerator last year and committed to fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This month, on the first anniversary of the ACT-Accelerator, the 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine production milestone has been reached, and current projections to produce close to 10 billion doses by the end of 2021 is thought to be feasible. According to a recent World Bank report, this should be sufficient to achieve global equity in the distribution of vaccines and attain worldwide herd immunity by March 2022.
This forecast is based on over 275 manufacturing deals that have been agreed to date coming on-line. Of these deals, 214 include various forms of partnership or collaboration that rely on technology transfer. There are early signs that the sharing of know-how of the processes and the technologies used to make the vaccines, as well as training specialist personnel to ensure quality standards throughout the process, are now starting to have an impact on the projected output. As these facilities get up to speed, they are able to produce more vaccines, as well as achieve increasingly better yields.
But the vaccine industry groups warn that success in achieving the manufacturing targets which by the end of 2021 should meet the needs of 70% of the world’s population, hinge on resolving immediately trade barriers and removing export restrictions that hinder the movement of global supply of vaccine components and the vaccines themselves during the manufacturing process. The demand on vaccine raw materials, ingredients and manufacturing components will need to meet the demand associated with the increase in vaccine production. This is of particular concern since there is currently a global shortage of some of the over 100 components and ingredients needed for vaccine manufacturing. While a great deal of focus has been put on ensuring there are enough vials or syringes; today we are seeing shortages in the lipids that are used in mRNA vaccines; as well as tubing and the plastic bags that are used in the production process for many vaccines.
The three vaccine industry groups have been actively engaged in highlighting these currents together with COVAX, both at the Global COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Supply Chain Summit in March 2021, as well as more recently at a WTO event “COVID-19 and Vaccine Equity: What can the WTO Contribute”. These discussions have started to point towards a number of potential short-term solutions; namely:
:: Further exploring voluntary manufacturing partnerships where feasible.
:: Removing current export restrictions and ensuring free flow of goods and workforce across the
:: Facilitating and speeding up of trade in the global supply chain of COVID-19 vaccines and their
components. This would require the involvement of the World Trade Organization and the World
:: Identifying and finding solutions to constraints of raw materials, critical components and
technology for vaccine manufacturing. Industry believes that a voluntary scheme for increasing
visibility on demand and supply of COVID-19 vaccine components could improve the efficiency of
the market place. The vaccine industry groups would welcome the creation of a clearing house or
hub managed by a trusted third party to head off problems before they occur by knowing where
there could be spare resources or bottlenecks in supplies of critical items.
The recently announced COVAX manufacturing task force where industry intends to play a key role, needs to see these solutions through from concept to reality within the next month. In the following months, the taskforce would be the appropriate forum for vaccine makers to share their experience of technology transfer and contribute to exploring the skills set needed to build a platform for sustainable vaccine manufacturing.