Gearing up for the much needed COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization held a meeting of vaccine manufacturers and national regulatory authorities from its South-East Asia Region.
“The manufacturing capacity that exists in our Region is of the quality and scale required to produce and roll-out a COVID-19 vaccine globally. This Region is a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse, and it must now also play a lead role in overcoming the ongoing pandemic,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.
At the virtual meeting, leading manufacturers from India, Indonesia, and Thailand discussed timelines and production capacity, while regulatory bodies deliberated on adjustments that would be needed in processes to make COVID-19 vaccines available at the earliest.
Several steps must be completed before the COVID-19 vaccine can be used on a large scale. These include pre-clinical and clinical trials, production, licensure, deployment of vaccines, and plans for post-marketing surveillance.
Mapping the full landscape of vaccine development activities in the Region will help coordination with global stakeholders, and support countries preparing COVID19 vaccine deployment plans, she said.
Globally, WHO has mobilized a broad coalition of scientists, researchers, and industry partners to develop and evaluate candidate vaccines for COVID-19. More than 120 potential vaccine candidates have been proposed globally, and WHO continues to track their type and progress. Seven candidate vaccines are already in clinical evaluation and 82 vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation.
Last week, WHO launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, which brings together key global health actors, private sector partners, and other stakeholders to accelerate the development and production of COVID-19 essential health technologies, including vaccines, and to help guarantee equitable access.
The launch of the initiative comes in the wake of a UN General Assembly resolution through which Member States called for all countries to have “equitable, efficient and timely” access to any future vaccines developed to fight COVID-19.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “All countries are now preparing to safely transition towards a ‘new normal’ in which social and economic life can function amid low or no COVID-19 transmission. As countries continue to assess and minimize risks, they are very much aware that we are in this together and must get through it together – that no country is safe until we all are safe, for which an effective vaccine that is accessible to all is needed.”
“We are also working to ensure that, once developed, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are available to all of humanity. To do that, we are coordinating expert consultations, developing target product profiles, and supporting clinical trials. For the Region and for the world, WHO is committed to facilitating and coordinating your efforts,” the Regional Director said.
India, Indonesia, and Thailand are among the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers. Every day, millions of people of all ages are provided life-saving protection by vaccines produced in these three countries.
“As we mark World Immunization Week, we must build on our success and redouble our efforts to ensure all people in the Region can access the life-saving benefits vaccines bring. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique challenge. But I am certain that through collaboration and innovation we can produce a vaccine faster than ever before while maintaining all standards,” Dr. Khetrapal Singh said.