Pharma industry leaders have called for rich nations to stop stockpiling excess COVID-19 vaccine doses and stated that there will be enough production by the end of the year to cover the entire global population. The head of Pfizer, J&J, and industry association the IFPMA also hope that this surge in production can put talk of an IP waiver for COVID-19 vaccines to bed once and for all.
Speaking at a media briefing hosted by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) in Geneva, IFPMA head and PharmaBoardroom contributor Thomas Cueni said that “vaccine supplies may outstrip global demand” and therefore “governments still holding back doses stocks in case of shortages no longer need to do so.”
Governments still holding back doses stocks in case of shortages no longer need to do so
Thomas Cueni, director general, IFPMA
The threshold of 7.5 billion vaccine doses looks set to be reached in September with 12 billion produced by the end of 2021; a figure that the industry hopes will address the massive gap in vaccination between wealthy and developing countries. This figure means that even if richer countries wish to vaccinate their entire population aged 12 and over, 1.2 billion doses will be available for redistribution to poorer nations. Up to 70 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated in developed countries, whereas in Africa the figure sits at a measly six percent.
According to an IFPMA statement, vaccine equity to low- and middle-income countries is dependent on high-income nations that have hoarded doses loosening their grip on supplies. Governments need to “strategically release doses so that vaccines leave the production lines and reach the people who need them most, from healthcare workers to vulnerable populations.”
If it takes us 18 months to get to upscaling manufacturing in existing plants… it will take different companies so much longer and so [an IP waiver] doesn’t help
Paul Stoffels, CSO, J&J
Also speaking at the briefing, J&J Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels argued that the boost in production should finally shelve plans for a much-discussed IP waiver, whereby COVID-19 vaccine recipes would be made public to allow developing nations to make their own. “At the moment it’s all about optimising existing manufacturing capacity of vaccines by those people who know how to produce,” stated Stoffels. “If it takes us 18 months to get to upscaling manufacturing in existing plants… it will take different companies so much longer and so it doesn’t help.”
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla agreed, adding “I’m not sure what is the point of transferring a technology that it is going to take years to transfer.” For its part, Pfizer will have delivered 41 percent of its vaccines to low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021, while J&J will have sent over 50 percent.
Next year, we should have enough doses for all that want to receive them
Albert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer
“I think yes, we will be covering [the WHO goal of inoculating at least 10 percent of the global population]. I think next year, we should have enough doses for all that want to receive them, then we will reach the same problems that we are reaching in the high-income countries, with people refusing to get the vaccination,” said Bourla.