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Preparedness Is Key to Response to Futures Pandemics

By Cristóbal Thompson - AMIIF
Executive Director


By Cristobal Thompson | Executive Director - Mon, 04/17/2023 - 10:00

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The pandemic has shown us what we are capable of when we work together across sectors and when innovation is on the side of humanity. Just over three years after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the world is resuming its daily activities, which are the engine of social development and economic growth. This is thanks to the efforts of the innovative biopharmaceutical industry, in collaboration with governments around the world and the international health authorities.

During the pandemic, innovation, scaling manufacturing, a socially responsible approach to pricing and sharing technology changed the course of the pandemic in record time.

But, despite the efforts of the global health community, equitable access to COVID-19 tools in the most vulnerable in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) was compromised. Together with global stakeholders, the pharmaceutical industry is determined to accelerate equitable access to such life-saving tools now and for future global pandemics.

The first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use only 326 days after the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was released. This was the fastest vaccine development ever. Such speed of response has been key to changing the impact of COVID. Now, we can prepare to react even quicker to the next pandemic and ensure equitable access to new innovations sooner. 

Looking ahead, it’s vital that countries have the technical and health infrastructure, human resources, financial capacity, and political support to successfully vaccinate, test, and provide care for their populations. In addition, borders between countries should be open without trade restrictions.

As the international community discusses the future pandemic architecture necessary to prepare and respond to public health emergencies, the innovative pharmaceutical industry has outlined five priorities that have proven to be fundamental during the COVID-19 pandemic. These priorities are critical to develop and deploy countermeasures even faster and more effectively and to achieve greater health equity in future epidemics.

A new architecture must maintain a thriving innovation environment and a research and development (R&D) ecosystem backed by an effective intellectual property framework.

Although major international efforts have been undertaken, we continue to face inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. For this reason, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) has shared practical solutions and recommendations focusing on:

  1. Sustaining a thriving innovation ecosystem that can be counted on to deliver rapid research and development of new pandemic countermeasures, as proposed in the “100 Day Mission,” and guaranteeing rapid and safe access to pathogens and their genetic information. Intellectual property incentives are critical to a thriving innovation ecosystem upon which global health security can depend. These incentives provide the necessary framework for at-risk investments in advance of the next pandemic and facilitate voluntary partnerships, business-to-business agreements, technology transfer and other forms of collaboration.

  2. Building equitable access to pandemic responses early on, shaping a new social contract, as outlined in the Berlin Declaration. This would make it possible to allocate the production of vaccines and treatments for future pandemics to priority populations in lower-income countries, and to adopt measures to make them available and affordable.

  3. Fostering sustainable manufacturing globally that can scale up for high-volume supply in future pandemics. An environment that fosters the attraction of sustainable investment and predictable demand will be critical to maintaining existing capacity and introducing new capacity in other regions. Robust intellectual property protection is an important requirement to fast-track partnerships, including voluntary licensing and technology transfers, resulting in a lasting and economically viable manufacturing base to produce safe, effective, and quality products.

  4. Supporting a trading environment that contributes to global health security with open borders and the removal of trade restrictions. This initiative seeks to enable the free movement of vaccines, treatments, raw materials, and supplies, as well as that of the people needed to support their manufacture through the exchange of technical knowledge.

  5. Supporting ongoing efforts to ensure greater country preparedness to anticipate and respond to future pandemics through investment in key healthcare system capacities, including life-course immunization programs. Disease surveillance must be improved and expanded, along with robust pandemic plans to deliver vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and care to populations in all countries, while maintaining access to routine and essential health services. Advances should build on and complement progress toward universal health coverage, which is a key pillar in the effective prevention, preparedness, and response to future pandemics.

These initiatives will strengthen our collective capabilities to prevent, detect and respond to future threats. They are underpinned by the need for collaboration — in this sense, the sector has a significant role in discussions of global architecture — as well as clarity on the financing mechanisms available to countries to be prepared for and respond to future pandemics within the framework of robust healthcare systems.

For the success of these measures, confidence is the key that will open the door to collaboration, exchange, the creation of innovative solutions, their production and equitable distribution around the world. This confidence must be underpinned by a sound regulatory framework that promotes and safeguards intellectual property rights.

With all stakeholders collaborating and playing their part, we can make sure that the efforts, investments, lessons and losses seen during COVID-19 are not in vain, but rather help shape a future where everyone is better protected from the threat of pandemics.

Photo by:   Cristóbal Thompson

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