The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has partnered with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to analyse the manufacturing potential of the region of the Americas, under the recently launched Regional Platform Initiative.
This, with a view to reducing the region’s reliance on pharmaceutical imports by strengthening PAHO’s role at every stage of the supply chain, particularly in relation to vaccines for viral diseases like the coronavirus (COVID-19), Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, has said.
CEPI is a global partnership, launched in 2017, to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics.
Speaking during PAHO’s weekly COVID-19 digital media briefing, on Wednesday (November 10), Dr. Etienne also advised that the organisation is working directly with the entities already selected to participate in the regional platform initiative to strengthen their capacity to develop and produce COVID mRNA vaccines, among others.
The entities, public producer the Bio-Manguinhos Institute of Technology on Immunobiologicals at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil, and private-sector company Sinergium Biotech in Argentina were selected from the over 30 applications submitted.
They will receive technical support to accelerate the production of mRNA vaccines, which is also used by global pharmaceutical firms – Pfizer and Moderna.
“This is a strategic and long-term project to reduce our vulnerability and dependence, by establishing regional capacity for this innovative technology that will benefit all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the future, this can also help us combat other viral diseases… in the region,” the PAHO Director said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Etienne noted that the entity has signed supply agreements with three manufacturers who have World Health Organization (WHO) emergency-use listed vaccines and is in the final stages of negotiations with a fourth supplier, who is an mRNA vaccine producer.
She told journalists that this is being done to expand vaccine options for member countries in 2021 and 2022.
While noting that COVID-19 infections are increasing in some member countries, following two consecutive months of decline, Dr. Etienne said the welcome news is that “vaccinations continue to pick up in our region”, pointing out that 48 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully immunised against COVID-19.
However, she said that coverage is still much lower in some countries and territories, citing Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Guatemala, “where less than one in five people have been vaccinated and protected”.
Dr. Etienne voiced concern that far too many people remain vulnerable and do not have access to the vaccines they need.
“We invite our member states to join the initiative [to secure additional doses] by using [PAHO’s] Revolving Fund, our established and proven mechanism for equitable access to vaccine supplies, guided by evidence-based recommendations,” she urged.
Over the last week, 700,000 new cases and 13,000 COVID-related deaths were reported in the region.