COVAX Manufacturing Task Force
- May 2021
- Co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi and UNICEF. Partner organisations: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), Developing Countries Vaccine Manufactures Network (DCVMN) and Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).
The COVAX Manufacturing Task Force aims to increase the global manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines by addressing shortages and bottlenecks related to the production process. Organisations involved in the taskforce have set up different short- and medium-term objectives that focus on enhancing supply chain management and the establishment of voluntary partnerships between the private and public sectors involved in the pandemic.
Additionally, the taskforce will look how technology transfer for the production of vaccines and increased human resources for health can be achieved. One of its initiatives is the South Africa Covid-19 mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub (mRNA hub), that develops a mRNA vaccine production process and transfers the technology concerned to manufacturers free of charge.
- Focus on increasing manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines.
- Mentions the need for voluntary technology transfer by pharmaceutical companies.
- Has helped establish the South African mRNA hub.
- Does not take into consideration the need for increased manufacturing capacity for other Covid-19 innovations other than vaccines, such as medicines and diagnostics.
- Lacks an overall action plan.
- Does not have actions planned to overcome barriers regarding intellectual property to increase global manufacturing capacity (as evident in the case of the mRNA hub).
- Relies on voluntary cooperation of a broad range of stakeholders, public and private. Therefore keeping intact the dependence of governments on the goodwill of pharmaceutical companies.
The COVAX Manufacturing Task Force aims to take away some of the urgent supply chain issues concerning the production of Covid-19 vaccines, therefore leading to more and better manufacturing capacity. However, how this taskforce exactly aims to increase manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries remains unclear. The lack of an exact action plan makes it hard to determine whether this initiative has contributed, or will contribute to global equitable distribution of vaccines.
While the establishment of the South African mRNA hub is a good practice, the refusal by right holding companies to share their intellectual property and know-how regarding the mRNA technology delays the manufacturing process of vaccines. The taskforce does not take position on the barriers of intellectual property, therefore keeping the power imbalance between governments and pharmaceutical companies intact.