WHO urges its SEAR national health regulators, manufacturers to fast track vaccine development

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Stressing on the importance of collaboration and innovation during the coronavirus crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday urged vaccine manufacturers and national regulatory authorities in its South-East Asia Region to fast track the process of developing COVID-19 vaccine.

The world health body organized a meeting of vaccine manufacturers and national regulatory authorities from the region through a video link on Wednesday and discussed timelines, production capacity, and necessary procedural adjustments for early development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

At the virtual meeting, leading manufacturers from India, Indonesia, and Thailand discussed timelines and production capacity, while regulatory bodies deliberated on adjustments that would be needed in processes to make COVID 19 vaccines available at the earliest, WHO said in a statement.

Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh said this region is a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse, and it must now play a lead role in overcoming the ongoing pandemic.

Several steps must be completed before the COVID-19 vaccine can be used on a large scale. These include pre-clinical and clinical trials, production, licensure, deployment of vaccines, and plans for post-marketing surveillance, she said.

Mapping the full landscape of vaccine development activities in the region will help in coordination with global stakeholders and support countries preparing COVID-19 vaccine deployment plans, Singh said.

“We are also working to ensure that once developed, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines are available to all of humanity. To do that, we are coordinating expert consultations, developing target product profiles, and supporting clinical trials. For the region and for the world, WHO is committed to facilitating and coordinating your efforts,” the regional director said.

India, Indonesia, and Thailand are among the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers. Every day, millions of people of all ages are provided life-saving vaccines produced in these three countries, the WHO statement said.

“As we mark World Immunization Week, we must build on our success and redouble our efforts to ensure all people in the region can access the life-saving benefits vaccines bring. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique challenge. But I am certain that through collaboration and innovation we can produce a vaccine faster than ever before while maintaining all standards,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

The global health body in its statement said WHO has mobilised a broad coalition of scientists, researchers and industry partners to develop and evaluate candidate vaccines for COVID-19.

More than 120 potential vaccine candidates have been proposed globally, and WHO continues to track their type and progress. Seven candidate vaccines are already in clinical evaluation and 82 vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation, it said.

Last week, WHO launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, which brings together key global health actors, private sector partners, and other stakeholders to accelerate the development and production of COVID-19 essential health technologies, including vaccines, and to help guarantee equitable access.

The launch of the initiative comes in the wake of a UN General Assembly resolution through which the member states called for all countries to have “equitable, efficient and timely” access to any future vaccines developed to fight COVID-19.

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