UNICEF Calls for Equitable Manufacturing and Distribution of Covid-19 Vaccines Globally

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore

Executive Director UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, has called for urgent actions to be taken to ensure the equitable manufacturing and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines globally.

Ms. Fore in a statement said with the emerging Covid-19 variants the current manufacturing and supply of the vaccines is inadequate to ensure equity, thus risking 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,” she added.

The UNICEF Director therefore urged governments, businesses and partners to build on a strategy of vaccinating frontline workers to a drive that truly enables equitable access for all, so countries can get ahead of the virus.

“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.

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,” she said.

Ms Fore further called for an end to vaccine nationalism. She urged governments to 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.

Finally, 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,” she said.

The UN Agency further encouraged countries with a sufficient, current supply of manufactured doses to consider donating at least 5% of their available manufactured doses right away, and commit to making further contributions on a continued, rolling basis throughout the year, scaling up their contributions in line with rising supply.

She indicated that the confirmation the dose-sharing commitments now will enhance predictability, accelerate equitable access, and help stabilize the global vaccine market.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has made clear to us all that no one is safe until everyone is safe. But equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines is within our grasp. We have proven that the world can rally to do the unthinkable, and we need to do it again. The sooner we do, the sooner our lives, and the lives of our children, will go back to normal,” she added.