Efforts urged to boost COVID-19 vaccine production capacity in poor countries


LONDON - Not allowing poorer countries to produce coronavirus vaccines to protect their people has been "one of the global failures" in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, a leading British health academic told Xinhua.

"Globally the biggest problem has been the failure to distribute vaccines to the vast majority of the world in sufficient amounts. In poorer countries, many frontline health workers still have not been vaccinated," Dr. Justin Parkhurst from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) said on Tuesday.

"There have been calls to waive patent protections to allow countries to produce vaccines, but this has been resisted by wealthy nations," said Parkhurst, chair of the Global Health Initiative at the LSE.

Parkhurst said there could be huge efforts to scale up vaccine production capacity in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which would not only help combat COVID-19, but build a defense against future diseases. "We have not moved in that direction yet," he stressed.

Looking ahead to 2022, Parkhurst said: "From what I read, I think there will still be possibility of novel variants emerging and the challenges could remain. Some experts on this type of virus point out that there are other coronaviruses which now do little more than cause the common cold, which humans get repeatedly exposed to. That might be where COVID-19 ends up, but if that is in a year, five years, or longer, I can't say."

"Many people also probably thought vaccines would soon end the pandemic, but unfortunately it has not been able to do so. The world has not been able to equitably provide vaccines to much of the world, and virus evolution has also proved a challenge," he noted.

Recalling the onset of the pandemic, Parkhurst said: "I certainly didn't expect such a long pandemic. We had seen examples of novel viruses like SARS and MERS, which caused problems, but not so widespread, and not so long-running."


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