Sharing technology and supporting innovation is not only a matter of fairness, but also the best way to stop pandemics.

Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda; Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic; Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa; Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal; Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany; and DR Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Inequality has affected the response to harmful pathogens. Take COVID-19, for example: a record 11.9 billion doses of vaccines have been introduced worldwide, helping many countries turn the tide of the pandemic. However, more than 80% of people in Africa have not received a single dose about 18 months after the first vaccination. As long as these inequalities exist, we can neither protect the population from new variants of the virus nor end the acute phase of this pandemic.

Groundbreaking innovations have enabled effective COVID-19 vaccines to be developed in record time. However, at the beginning of the vaccination campaign, the production of vaccines and other medical technologies was limited to a few, mostly wealthy countries. Poor countries are at the bottom of the list. Since then, the situation has changed, and supply exceeds demand on a global scale. The international community, under the auspices of the ACT Accelerator and COVAX Facility, has played a critical role in this regard, reaffirming that responding to disasters such as COVID-19 requires good preparation and new ways of working to protect public health. .

The main challenges today are how to ensure that vaccines remain effective, build the capacity of national public health systems to deliver doses, increase vaccine use, and counter the spreading misinformation that fuels vaccine reluctance.

The clear lesson to be learned from this pandemic is that we need to increase local and regional production of vaccines and other essential health commodities in low- and middle-income countries. This will ensure both direct access to vaccines and the creation of an environment conducive to local production. So in the next crisis, supplies will be more reliable and fairer, as long as global supply chains are not interrupted.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union, the European Union, the governments of South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Germany and France and their partners are working to increase local vaccine production and improve global and regional collaboration to prevent and respond to future pandemics. Investing collectively to ensure that all regions of the world are equipped with state-of-the-art manufacturing infrastructure, trained personnel, and institutional and regulatory arrangements is a valuable asset to our common health security.

WHO supports multilateral efforts to create and disseminate mRNA technology in developing countries.

A year ago, WHO, South Africa and the Medicines Patent Pool established a technology transfer center for mRNA vaccines in Cape Town (1), with support from Germany, France, the European Union and other local and international partners. The center aims to spread this technology to developing countries by training and licensing manufacturers to produce their own vaccines for national and regional use.

Thanks to donor support, the center is already making progress. Scientists have developed a new mRNA vaccine based on publicly available information. Local growers from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe have been selected to use this technology. Partners of the Medicines Patent Pool are ready to help with technology licensing. The African Pharmaceutical Technology Fund, a new initiative of the African Development Bank, can also help.

Some in the private sector are also stepping up their efforts. The opening ceremony last month in Rwanda of Africa’s first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility, built by the German company BioNTech, is an example of African countries’ efforts to join forces with partners to become more resilient in the face of pandemics. There are plans to open similar units in Senegal in cooperation with Ghana for bottling and finishing services.

mRNA technology is not just for fighting COVID-19. It can be adapted to deal with other diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and leishmaniasis, as countries are encouraged to produce the tools they need to meet their health needs. At the recent summit in Kigali, BioNTech committed to end its malaria vaccination program and produce any licensed product in Africa. The WHO mRNA Vaccine Center program in South Africa is already planning to develop a wide range of vaccines and other products to fight threatening diseases such as insulin for diabetes, cancer drugs and possibly vaccines for other priority diseases such as malaria. , tuberculosis and HIV infection.

Building a vaccine factory is hard, but making it sustainable is even harder.

First, it is necessary to build the capacity of the staff working in these units through training. WHO is responding to this need through the Republic of Korea Biomanufacturing Training Center, which operates within the WHO Academy in Lyon, to help developing countries produce not only vaccines, but also insulin, monoclonal antibodies and cancer treatments. Rwanda recently opened the African Institute of Bioproduction, an innovative structure that brings together trainers from industry and universities to train local staff.

Second, the manufacturing of health products requires strong regulatory capacity to enforce quality standards and approve final products. WHO and partners are investing in strengthening regulators in Africa and elsewhere. The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the African Union Development Agency have been working with regulators on the continent and in high-income countries to build capacity. The agreement establishing the African Medicines Agency, headquartered in Rwanda, has entered into force and the Agency will become the pharmaceutical regulatory authority on the African continent.

Strengthening regulatory bodies in developing countries will also increase confidence in locally produced products and help combat misinformation and the proliferation of dangerous counterfeit medicines.

Third, the new manufacturing units will be heavily dependent on a stable and competitive market in which vaccine and other new pharmaceuticals suppliers will be willing to acquire these vital tools. We recognize the need for current and future African vaccine producing countries to have access to vaccine supply platforms, including GAVI. Market targeting strategies at regional and continental levels, as defined by the Africa Vaccine Partnership, can sustain ongoing efforts, with leading agencies and partners such as Unitaid ready to lend their support to guide markets. The G7 leaders also considered this issue and asked the relevant international players to develop a common strategy for market orientation.

At the last World Health Assembly, there was consensus that building strong and sustainable productive capacities in developing countries is essential to moving towards a safer world.

WHO Member States also discussed the need for a new pandemic compact, as an interconnected world requires globally agreed standards and mechanisms to ensure strong coordination during an acute health crisis.

And, most importantly, governments have recognized that additional funding is urgently needed for critical investments in pandemic preparedness and response capacity at the national, regional and global levels. In this regard, we welcome the recent establishment of the new Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Financial Intermediation Facility at the World Bank, with WHO playing a central technical lead role.

We are sure that there will be a new epidemic, the only question is when. Now is the time to intensify collaboration, develop local production and build trust in locally produced products to better prepare for the next outbreak.