The World Health Organization creates a global training center to help low-income countries make vaccines, cancer treatments and antibodies using mRNA technology that has been effectively used to create vaccines COVID-19.
At a Wednesday press conference in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that the location of the new hub would be in South Korea and would share mRNA technology developed by the WHO and its partners in South Africa. This is where scientists worked to recreate the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine without receiving any help from Moderna.
As the coronavirus pandemic hits poorer countries with fragile health systems, WHO officials are scrambling to find ways to save lives. Tedros said “Vaccines have helped change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this scientific triumph has been undermined by vast inequalities in access to these vital tools.”
This is the first time the WHO has supported such innovative efforts to reverse-engineer a commercially available vaccine to shop around for the pharmaceutical industry, which has essentially prioritized supplies to wealthy countries over poor countries, both in terms of sales and manufacturing.
The two licensed COVID-19 mRNA vaccine companies – Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech – have refused to share their vaccine technology know-how with the WHO and its partners. If manufacturers agree to help, the time to produce usable shots will be much shorter.
WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan believes that attempting to recreate Moderna’s vaccine without help from the company is unlikely to produce a usable vaccine until late 2023 or even 2024.
Last week, the WHO said six African countries – Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya and Tunisia – would receive the knowledge and technological instructions to manufacture COVID mRNA vaccines. -19.
Five additional countries – Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Serbia – will now receive support from the hub in South Africa, Tedros said on Wednesday.
Some information for this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.