The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 21 July 2021 hosted a High-Level Dialogue on “Expanding COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacture to Promote Equitable Access”, with the participation of senior policymakers, heads of multilateral agencies, vaccine manufacturers, development finance institutions, global health initiatives and public health activists.
The event, which was held under the Chatham House Rule, aimed to identify obstacles and propose solutions for increasing vaccine production and closing the wide gap in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries.
Participants described current and projected production volumes as well as plans for new investments in production capacity. They shared experiences about specific supply chain bottlenecks they were encountering, from export restrictions and raw material shortages to onerous regulatory processes and exchanged ideas on how these might be addressed.
They discussed issues around the transfer of know-how and technology as well as factors influencing their decisions on licensing intellectual property.
While there was broad agreement on the importance of keeping supply chains open and predictable, different perspectives were expressed on the proposed waiver of the WTO's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement provisions pertaining to vaccines and other products needed to combat COVID-19.
The discussions also touched upon a wide range of issues where greater international cooperation would be beneficial. For instance, multiple participants noted that uncoordinated national recognition of WHO-approved vaccines could leave many vaccinated people unable to travel to places where their vaccines are not recognised. In this regard, they urged countries to accept all WHO-approved vaccines.
The Directors-General of the WHO, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the WTO opened the event.
Story by: Riaan de Lange