GENEVA (AP) – The World Health Organization is setting up a global training center to help poor countries produce vaccines, antibodies and treat cancer using RNA information technology, which has been used successfully to produce vaccines against COVID-19.
At a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreies said the new center would be based in South Korea and would share mRNA technology being developed by WHO and partners in South Africa, where scientists are working to recreate COVID-19. vaccine made by Moderna Inc. These efforts are happening without the help of Moderna.
“Vaccines have helped change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this scientific triumph has been undermined by huge inequalities in access to these rescue tools,” Tedros said.
This is the first time the WHO has supported such an extraordinary effort to rebuild a commercially sold vaccine by shutting down the pharmaceutical industry, which has largely prioritized supplies from rich countries over poor ones in both sales and production.
Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, manufacturers of two approved vaccines against COVID-19 mRNA, declined to share vaccine prescriptions or technological skills with WHO and its partners.
The WHO said the joint technology would hopefully lead not only to the development of coronavirus vaccines, but would also be useful for generating antibodies, insulin and treating diseases including malaria and cancer.
WHO chief scientist Dr Sumia Swaminathan has calculated that an attempt to recreate the Moderna vaccine is unlikely to yield any useful injections until the end of next year or even until 2024, but said the time could be significantly shortened if the manufacturer agrees to help.
The global difference in access to COVID-19 vaccines is huge. Africa currently produces only 1% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine, and only about 11% of its population is immunized. In contrast, in a European nation like Portugal, 84% of the population is fully vaccinated, and more than 59% of its inhabitants have also been vaccinated.
Last week, the WHO announced that six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia – will gain the knowledge and technological know-how to produce mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. Tedras said on Wednesday that five more countries would receive support from the center of South Africa: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Serbia and Vietnam.
Earlier this year, a Cape Town company trying to replicate an injection of COVID-19 from Moderna Inc. said it had successfully made a candidate vaccine that would soon begin laboratory tests.
Scientists trying to produce the Moderna vaccine say more information about the vaccine is publicly available, and it is believed that it is slightly easier to produce than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Zain Rizvi, director of research for the advocacy group Public Citizen, welcomed the news, saying the WHO’s efforts would address the huge global demand for mRNA vaccines, which have proven to be perhaps the most effective in combating COVID-19.
“(WHO) contrasts sharply with the failures of Moderna and Pfizer in the world, which have largely accumulated technology,” Rizvi said. “WHO is planning an alternative course, more open and transparent. But we still need help. “
Rizvi called on the Biden administration, in particular, to put pressure on international pharmaceutical companies to share their COVID-19 vaccine recipes and know-how.
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