UNICEF calls for easing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines



UNICEF has stressed the need for removing barriers to acquisition, manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally.
“We need speed and simplicity to remove barriers to the acquisition, manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement issued from New York today.
She said: “In a little over a year, the world’s scientists, businesses, governments, philanthropists and multilateral institutions rallied and did the unthinkable: They created vaccines to fight a virus that had brought the world to a standstill. And they tested, transported and began to administer those vaccines safely and in record time. This is nothing short of astounding.”
But the fight is not yet over, she said, adding that variants are emerging all over the world, and with each, the risk of a massive global setback.
“At the current rate, there is simply not enough vaccine supply to meet demand. And the supply available is concentrated in the hands of too few. Some countries have contracted enough doses to vaccinate their populations several times, while other countries have yet to receive even their first dose. This threatens us all. The virus and its mutations will win,” the UNICEF chief said.
“In order to get ahead of the virus, and to shift gears, we must build on a strategy of vaccinating frontline workers but drive towards a strategy that truly enables equitable access for all,” she said, urging the governments, businesses and partners to take three urgent actions to this end.
“First, simplify Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) through voluntary and proactive licensing by IPR holders. But this alone won’t increase production. Unlike drug manufacture, vaccine production involves a complex manufacturing process with multiple components and steps.
“IPR holders would need to provide technology partnerships to accompany IP licenses, proactively share know-how and sub-contract to manufacturers without undue geographic or volume restrictions. This challenge requires not forced IP waivers but proactive partnership and cooperation. Recent manufacturing partnerships such as Pfizer-BioNtech; AZ-SII, J&J- Merck and J&J-Aspen are encouraging examples. UNICEF urges others to follow suit, to increase the scale and geographic diversity of manufacturing capacity,” Henrietta Fore said.
She said while markets alone can’t guarantee innovation benefits all, voluntary licensing, pooled funds and multilateral mechanisms such as COVAX are an effective and realistic way for product developers and manufacturers to collaborate, innovate, and encourage equitable access.
“Second, we need to end vaccine nationalism. Governments should remove direct and indirect export- and import-control measures that block, restrict or slow down exports of COVID-19 vaccines, ingredients and supplies. Viruses respect no borders. Defeating COVID-19 in each of our home countries also means defeating it around the world by ensuring a steady flow of vaccines and supplies to all,” the UNICEF executive director said.
Finally, she said, governments that have contracted to receive more ‘future doses’ than required to vaccinate their entire adult populations this year, should immediately loan, release or donate most or all excess contracted doses for 2021 to COVAX, so they can be allocated equitably among other countries.

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