Covax launches marketplace for Covid vaccine inputs to boost production

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The international Covid-19 vaccine programme backed by the World Health Organization has set up a marketplace to address supply chain bottlenecks that are hampering efforts to vaccinate the world.

The new platform aims to match vaccine makers with suppliers of key inputs to help boost production, after the Covax scheme has struggled to access enough doses.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, one of the partners behind the initiative, hopes to make it easier for suppliers to reallocate unused materials, including inputs from vaccines that fail to gain regulatory approval. The platform is also expected to improve access to surplus stock at manufacturers that do not usually make vaccines.

CEPI, in its role as facilitator, said it would prioritise requests from vaccine makers that already have orders from Covax and WHO emergency use listing for their shots.

Richard Hatchett, chief executive of CEPI, who previously advised the White House under former US presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, said shortages of critical supplies had stopped vaccine production lines around the world from operating at full capacity.

“Optimising the use of scarce resources that may otherwise be sitting idle — by matching buyers and sellers around the globe — could contribute to improving the global supply of vaccines through Covax,” he said.

Covax aims to make 2bn doses available by the end of the year, mainly to middle- and lower-income nations. So far it has only delivered 118m vaccines to 135 countries, after western countries prioritised vaccinating their own populations, India imposed export controls and manufacturers struggled to meet production targets.

The Covax marketplace will initially focus on six critical areas where there have been shortages, including bioreactor bags, lipids required for messenger RNA vaccines and vials to transport doses. Eventually, the marketplace could also facilitate supplies for other life-saving medicines and vaccines hit by global shortages, CEPI said.

Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, said 11bn doses would be required to vaccinate every adult in the world by the end of the year, while 3bn doses have been produced so far.

“A delay in the delivery of a bioreactor plastic bag can halt a whole production line and delay a batch of thousands of litres for weeks, if not months,” he said.

But he added that the world also needed to urgently increase the sharing of doses and remove trade barriers.

Trade controls, such as India’s decision to prevent the export of doses by the Serum Institute and the US government’s deployment of the Defense Production Act, which stopped the use of some equipment and components outside the country, have hampered global production.

Meanwhile, some western governments, including the US, have pledged spare doses to vaccinate the populations of developing countries and yet continued to order more vaccines as potential booster shots, sucking up supply that could be used as first and second doses elsewhere.

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