Global players brainstorm to boost COVID vaccine output

2021-03-08 12:04:56

  Handout image taken January 20, 2021 shows the manufacturing process of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Frankfurt, Germany. [Photo/Agencies] GENEVA - Global players are gathering online from Monday to brainstorm ways to rapidly boost vaccine production and fight a still-virulent coronavirus, as Europe is staggering with infectious variants surge. Giving impetus to the meeting is a warning from the World Health Organization that the pandemic will not end unless low-and middle-income countries can keep up with accelerating mass vaccination campaigns in rich nations. Meeting online on Monday and Tuesday will be partners of the Covax vaccine distribution initiative, led by the Gavi vaccine alliance and backed by research arm the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations as well as the WHO. Government delegates, scientists and representatives of the pharmaceutical giants as well as smaller drugmakers from developing countries will also participate. The aim is "to shine the light on the gaps that we have currently in the supply chain, of reagents, of raw material, of products that you need to make vaccines", WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a news conference on Friday. The pharmaceutical industry aims to produce 10 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses this year, which is double the 2019 manufacturing capacity for all kinds of vaccines. Manufacturing these jabs requires not just an unprecedented quantity of ingredients, but also items such as glass for the vials and plastic for their caps-at a time when global supply chains have been disrupted by the pandemic, Swaminathan said. "So the summit is really focusing on that upstream area, the gaps, how they can be filled and for solutions to be found." Such interventions "can make a difference in the short term" even as WHO and others are already eyeing the longer-term course of the pandemic, she added. While the world is gaining pace in vaccination, Europe has been griped by more contagious coronavirus variants first identified in Britain, powering another uptick in infections across the continent, according to WHO. The variants also include versions first identified in South Africa and Brazil. Europe recorded 1 million new COVID-19 cases last week, an increase of 9 percent from the previous week and a reversal that ended a six-week decline in new infections, WHO said. The situation is dire in the Czech Republic, which this week registered a record-breaking total of nearly 8,500 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. France has extended its weekend lockdown to norther region, which put more than 2 million people across the country under the restrictions. Agencies via Xinhua