The world faces a ‘rolling cycle of lockdowns’ unless it can unite, warns leading Sage scientist. If coronavirus is present somewhere ‘it is a threat everywhere’, key Sage adviser warns…
DR JEREMY FARRAR
16 MAY 2020 • 6:00PM
Source: The Telegraph
Reprinted for educational purposes and social benefit, not for profit.
On a sunny Sunday in May, I would have hoped to be playing cricket. Others will be looking forward to a game of tennis, a visit to the coast – or just heading to the local garden centre.
We are all wondering when we might be able to have friends and family around for that simple Sunday barbeque that brings generations together.
As we begin to take tentative, hopeful steps, we are starting to think about what may be possible in the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, governments are scrambling to secure deals with pharmaceutical giants that put their citizens first. But neither Britain, nor any country, can afford to be short-sighted. For as long as Covid-19 is present somewhere, it is a threat everywhere. No country can return to normality until the world brings this pandemic to an end.
A YouGov poll commissioned by Wellcome reveals a staggering 96 per cent of UK adults believe national governments should work together to ensure treatments and vaccines can be manufactured in as many countries as possible, and distributed globally to everyone who needs them.
Monday and Tuesday’s World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of the World Health Organization – is the time for all nations to urgently address how to do this. We cannot afford to further delay.
Governments, industry and philanthropy must prioritise the long term and pool their resources, to ensure everyone benefits from a vaccine.
A fragmented approach will not succeed in an interconnected world. It will only prolong the current situation, leading to a rolling cycle of lockdowns, limited travel and trade, and even more strain on our healthcare system.
Even if every person in the UK was vaccinated, epidemics in other countries would have a knock-on impact on our livelihoods and economy. And if we do get a vaccine, we don’t know how long it might be able to protect us for.
Vaccines are international collaborations. No single country has the capacity to research, develop and manufacture a vaccine on its own.
Take the Ebola vaccine: early basic science done in the US, virus sequence data from the Democratic Republic of Congo, advanced as a vaccine in Canada, developed in the US, manufactured in Germany and tested in multiple countries.
In the UK, promising research into a Covid-19 vaccine is taking place across the country with input and funding from multiple international sources. But even if one of the candidates were successful, we currently – like many other countries – have limited manufacturing capacity.
To get a vaccine for the world, we must prepare to execute the largest and fastest vaccine testing and manufacturing scale-up in history. As soon as vaccines are ready, we will need to roll out billions of doses – and have the glass vials, syringes and other key ingredients ready too.
No single country can do this alone. One manufacturer and one vaccine candidate will not be enough. We need to run clinical trials across the world, to make sure the vaccines work for everyone.
We need multiple vaccines, multiple manufacturers, and multiple manufacturing sites across the world, to ensure the vaccines are fairly distributed and not limited to high-income countries.
Funding for vaccines has always come from multiple international sources. The Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), which Wellcome co-founded in 2017 with Germany, Norway, Japan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is now supported by over 30 governments. The resources go towards creating vaccines for everyone.
Producing vaccines, treatments and tests for the world is our only way out of this pandemic. Global collaboration is paramount. If governments, industry and philanthropy work in isolation, we will face horribly tense months and years ahead, with countless more lives lost and catastrophic damage to our economies.
A successful vaccine may come from anywhere – Britain, Cuba, Russia, China, USA, Australia, the EU – and yet we all will need it.
Any vaccine against Covid-19 should be considered a global public good, free at the point of delivery. Governments, industry and philanthropy must pool resources to pay for the risk, the research, manufacturing and distribution, but the vaccine should be available to everyone, regardless of where it has been developed or who has funded it.
If countries start partnering with manufacturers to secure their own supplies, poorer countries will be excluded and left vulnerable. So too may many rich countries.
And the world will have to grapple with fresh waves for years to come. In our poll, almost nine in 10 UK adults opposed the idea that coronavirus treatments and vaccines should first be provided for those around the world who can afford to buy them.
Securing a vaccine for the world is not just a matter of altruism: it is in every country’s self-interest to bring this pandemic to an end as quickly as possible. The UK will only benefit when everyone benefits, and we should lead the way.
Sir Jeremy Farrar is a member of Sage and director of the Wellcome Trust. He was previously a professor of tropical medicine at the University of Oxford.
If coronavirus is present somewhere ‘it is a threat everywhere’, key Sage adviser warns
Source: The Telegraph
The UK and other rich countries must reject a “short sighted” approach to coronavirus vaccine development or they risk being caught in a “rolling cycle of lockdowns” and restrictions on travel and trade, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has warned.
Writing in the Telegraph, Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, says that when world leaders come together for this week’s World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation – they must hammer out a deal that ensures all countries in the world have equal access to any eventual vaccine.
Sir Jeremy said: “Governments, industry and philanthropy must prioritise the long-term and pool their resources, to ensure everyone benefits from a vaccine.
“A fragmented approach will not succeed in an interconnected world. It will only prolong the current situation, leading to a rolling cycle of lockdowns, limited travel and trade, and even more strain on our healthcare system.
“Even if every person in the UK was vaccinated, epidemics in other countries would have a knock-on impact on our livelihoods and economy.”
He said that as long as Covid-19 is present somewhere “it is a threat everywhere”.
“No country can return to normality until the world brings this pandemic to an end,” he added, saying the UK would only benefit “when everyone benefits”.
There have been fears that countries will pursue a policy of “vaccine nationalism”, insisting that their citizens are at the front of the queue when an inoculation finally becomes available.
On Friday US president Donald Trump unveiled “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine by the end of the year, pledging to work with other countries.
He described the operation as a “massive scientific, industrial and logistical endeavour unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project”.
According to a poll of 2,000 UK adults commissioned by Wellcome 90 per cent of respondents said Covid-19 treatments and vaccines should first be provided for those who need them most in the world. And fewer than half (44 per cent) supported the idea that people in the country where the vaccines are developed should be at the front of the queue.
According to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine there are more than 150 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in development, with one of the most advanced being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.
That has already begun human trials but even if it is developed at breakneck speed it will be at least a year before it is ready for wide scale use.
But while developing the vaccine is a challenge, equally difficult is the manufacture and distribution, Sir Jeremy added.
“To get a vaccine for the world, we must prepare to execute the largest and fastest vaccine testing and manufacturing scale-up in history. As soon as vaccines are ready, we will need to roll out billions of doses – and have the glass vials, syringes and other key ingredients ready too,” he added.
“No single country can do this alone. One manufacturer and one vaccine candidate will not be enough. We need to run clinical trials across the world, to make sure the vaccines work for everyone.
“We need multiple vaccines, multiple manufacturers, and multiple manufacturing sites across the world, to ensure the vaccines are fairly distributed and not limited to high-income countries,” he said.
On Friday Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, called for solidarity between countries on access to vaccines.
“Now is the moment where leaders must come together to develop a new access policy,” he said. The pandemic will not end unless all countries have equitable access, he added.