News and Opinions  –  2021

Local production of vaccines and medicines in focus: Key points from ReAct and South Center UN HLPF side-event

Share the article


This year, the UN High-Level Political Forum convened virtually, and ReAct and South Centre co-organized a side-event panel discussion on “Ensuring a Sustainable and Resilient Response to COVID-19 and Emerging Infectious Diseases through Local Production.” Here are a few key points and you find a recording of the webinar further down in this article.

Pharmaceutical industry. Production line machine conveyor with glass bottles ampoules at factory. Photo: Shutterstock.

For the panel, speakers that are familiar with local production of medicines and vaccines in low- and middle-income countries spoke to:

  • the opportunities for expanding local production
  • harnessing pooled procurement and
  • the challenges ahead and how they might be met.

The UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the United Nation’s central platform for monitoring progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. For the 4th UN High-Level Political Forum, the theme was the “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Professor Anthony So, Director of ReAct North America, shared a policy overview and the challenges for establishing local manufacturing. In his comments, he highlighted the need for public sector collective action, much like the world once saw with the scale-up of penicillin during World War II.

Regarding the historic decision by UNICEF/WHO and the Indian government to build local penicillin manufacturing back in the 1950s:

“Perhaps some history is worth repeating.”

said Professor Anthony So

Challenges and opportunities for bringing vaccine production to Africa

For the main panel, Ayoade “Yodi” Olatunbosun-Alakija from the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance for COVID-19 and Patrick Tippoo with the African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative (AVMI) and Biovac spoke to the challenges and opportunities for bringing vaccine production to the African context.

Ms. Olatunbosun-Alakija’s remarks reflected on the need to put the building blocks in place now and that the issue is multi-sectoral. As a result, Ministers of Finance and Trade must come aboard to make vaccine production in low- and middle-income countries a global good.

Shape market in Africa

In a similar vein, Mr Tippo said that the easiest way to guarantee access is to make the product yourself. To enable this, it will be necessary to shape the market in Africa. However, the African context is not starting from ground zero, there are already five active African vaccine manufacturers.

Dr Akira Homma with Fiocruz’ Bio-Manguinhos program talked about Brazil’s lessons on local production. These efforts must be sustainable technologically and economically. Furthermore, Brazil has benefited from public-private partnerships for speeding up production activity.

Latin American region depend on imported health technology

After the main panel, Dr Analía Porrás (PAHO) and Jean-Michel Piedagnel (Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative) provided further comments. Dr Porrás highlighted the dependencies of the Latin American region on imported health technologies. At the start of the pandemic, the region had to rely on imports for critical health technologies, with only 4% originating from the region.

See recording of the ReAct and South Center webinar: “Ensuring a Sustainable and Resilient Response to COVID-19 and Emerging Infectious Diseases through Local Production”.

More news and opinion