Ongoing Innovation is Essential to the COVID-19 Response
Across the Middle East and North Africa, vaccination efforts continue to ramp up. As of July 2021, sixteen vaccines are authorized and being distributed around the world. The United Arab Emirates recently became the world’s most vaccinated country by percent of its population. Across the region, however, vaccination rates differ greatly between nations, with access often dependent on the country’s financial status or what agreements are in place with other countries or vaccine manufacturers.
Biopharmaceutical manufacturers are fully committed to providing global access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and are working to meet global demand, including through more than 300 vaccine manufacturing partnerships. Globally, the ACT Accelerator has also been an essential collaboration tool between governments and industry to expedite development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. In the past few months, there have been several milestones that highlight global collaboration underway:
- Egypt donated 31 tons of medical supplies to Tunisia, including oxygen cylinders, surgical masks, medical gloves, pulse oximeters and COVID-19 treatments.
- The French government donated 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Tunisia.
- Yemen will receive 151,000 COVID-19 vaccines this month through a COVAX partnership with Johnson & Johnson.
But even with different vaccine and treatment options approved and on their way to people around the world, continued innovation remains essential, particularly as new virus variants emerge and spread globally. Additional vaccine candidates and treatment options, especially those that reduce hospitalizations or severe disease, will help keep more people healthy and support global recovery. Innovations to address COVID-19 currently in the pipeline include vaccine nasal sprays, one-shot boosters, preventative respiratory products and self-administering vaccines.
While some have argued that intellectual property (IP) is standing in the way of increased global vaccination, these claims are unsubstantiated. Time and time again, IP protections have proved to be the foundation for innovation and research and development. In reality, weaknesses in health infrastructure, access to raw materials and last-mile distribution challenges are bottlenecks to achieving greater global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Government actions and policies that focus on promoting innovation, strengthening health systems holistically and broadening patient access will help the biopharmaceutical industry continue to find innovative ways to develop and deliver COVID-19 treatments and vaccines for people in the MENA region.