Image credits: Vinzenz Lorenz M
News Article

The Americas Need Regional Vaccine Production: PAHO

By Rodrigo Andrade | Mon, 07/18/2022 - 15:11

As the new COVID-19 variants BA.4 and BA.5 gain more ground and monkeypox cases keep increasing everyday in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urged countries in the region to step up local vaccine production to limit the spread of diseases. 

“[Vaccine] production capacity will continue to be sorely needed in our region to help address COVID-19 and other pathogens,” stated Carissa Etienne, Director, PAHO. She also said that the new cases of omicron are a “further reminder that the virus continues to evolve each time it is transmitted, and that we must remain vigilant.”

While the region has advanced in the management of diseases since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Americas still face difficulties in maintaining the vaccine supply chain due to the high demand and the dependency on imports of personal protection equipment, supplies and medicines. The region’s poor preparedness might worsen future outbreaks, warned Etienne: “outbreaks of other diseases are likely to occur that will require us to rapidly develop and deploy new vaccines, diagnostics and drugs to combat them.”

To achieve greater regional vaccine production in the Americas, PAHO announced a three-step plan in collaboration with the main international donors and countries in the continent. The first step is investing in R&D in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing in the development sector of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. This step has already started. Last year, PAHO published the regional platform for advancing the production of vaccines and other health technologies for COVID-19 in the Americas to support regional businesses develop and use mRNA vaccines. Argentina’s Sinergium Biotech and Brazil’s Instituto de Inmunobiologia Bio-Manguinhos are participating in this initiative.

Mexico is also developing a COVID-19 vaccine called “Patria,” which is currently on Phase 2 clinical trials to test its effectiveness as a booster for those who already have a complete vaccination scheme. The Patria vaccine is a national project created through the collaboration of the Mexican government, the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) and Laboratorios Avimex. The vaccine has already approved the preclinical and the Phase 1 clinical trials in humans, which were made in 2020 and 2021 under the supervision of the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS).

This platform “aims to promote research and encourage the development of essential and strategic health technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean, expand production capacities to ensure timely access to safe, effective and quality products, facilitate the exchange of information between sectors and foster cooperation between partners and countries,” according to PAHO. 

The second step is to generate a secure regulation system at a regional level to guarantee that the medical tools that are being developed and utilized are safe to use in Latin America. The third step is to strengthen the collaboration between PAHO and the most important regional and international partners, which is critical to the creation of a track paper that has involved an alliance with the EU to improve health technology in the Americas. 

“All these efforts combined have the potential to transform the way the region develops and manufactures medical products and technologies, especially highly sophisticated tools such as vaccines,” said Etienne. Improving the capacity production on its own its not enough to guarantee access to all the population in the region, she added. 

Procurement mechanisms are critical to guarantee universal access, according to PAHO. The Rotary Fund, for example, shows the result that the cooperation between Participating Member States can have. In over 30 years, it has contributed to the constant supply of products that meet high quality standards at the lowest available price. 

Photo by:   Vinzenz Lorenz M
Rodrigo Andrade Rodrigo Andrade Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst