About a year ago, in March 2020, people worldwide were having their last workday in the office. Although life has slowly begun to return to some level of normalcy in some places, at least for now, in many others – perhaps most –, people with desk jobs are still working from home.
At the IDB, in March 2020, we began organizing a series of webinars about COVID-19, focusing on non-pharmacological interventions to slow the spread of the pandemic and countries’ experiences tackling the health emergency, to contribute towards the generation and dissemination of information and knowledge about the pandemic.
One year later, in March 2021, we are beginning a new series of webinars about COVID-19, but this time focused on vaccines. On the first webinar of this series, we will be discussing the main bottlenecks to increase COVID-19 vaccine production and what could be done to increase manufacturing capacity in the short and medium terms.
In an upcoming event, we will be discussing the cases of Chile and Israel, and the American state of West Virginia, and how they manage to have vaccination programs that are among the fastest in the world, having inoculated significant shares of the population.
It is a remarkable achievement for humanity that we are now discussing how to expand vaccine production. Through human ingenuity, innovation, and the hard work of many, from scientists and pharmacologists to governments and organizations, the world has developed and started producing several vaccines that have been proven to be safe and effective. A process that usually takes years has been reduced to a few months.
Our challenge now is to scale up production and ensure that no one is left behind. In other words, that there is equity in the distribution and use of these vaccines for the sake of humanity itself, as the more the virus spreads, the more the chances that new variants, potentially posing new threats, could emerge.
In this webinar, three outstanding experts with extensive academic and professional experience in the pharmaceutical industry will discuss some of the main challenges we face to expand production, including issues related to infrastructure, the time needed to expand and/or repurpose plants, and the compliance with good manufacturing practices and other regulatory requirements; highly specialized equipment and the time needed to procure them; the availability of single source inputs, whose use in production lines has increased; the availability of raw materials, such as lipid molecules used in mRNA vaccines; the availability of auxiliary capacity, such as glass materials; and technology transfer – how easy, or how difficult, it is to transfer technology and know-how to other manufacturers around the world, among many others topics.
They will also discuss which vaccine platforms have the strongest potential for scaling up in low- and middle-income countries and some of the policy options that could be put in place to contribute to scale-up the industrial capacity for vaccine manufacturing. For instance, are there potential incentives to create a more enabling environment for production?
Obviously, there is so much that can be discussed in a one-hour session. Nevertheless, we hope that everyone who joins us will learn a little about some of these challenging issues. Challenges that, surely, are not over. The new variants do pose an array of new questions to humankind that will have to be answered. This, indeed, will be the topic of one of the other webinars in our series. If there is one thing that we are all learning together in this pandemic, is that humanity is resourceful and can do a lot to face common threats.
Check out our past webinars on the fight against COVID-19:
- What can Latin American and the Caribbean Countries learn from the Korean experience with COVID-19
- COVID-19: What works to Flatten the Curve
- German experience in managing COVID-19
- China experience in managing COVID-19
- How can Latin America and the Caribbean prepare to produce tests and medical devices to respond to COVID-19?
- Israel experience in managing COVID-19
- COVID-19 forecasts for Latin American Countries, using the IHME epidemiological model
- How to prioritize health interventions in times of a pandemic? Scarce resources and infinite demands